As many people will be aware, there is currently a national shortage of the Hepatitis A and B vaccines. As clinics around the country run out of stock, this can leave many travellers feeling at risk as they prepare to travel abroad.
Earlier this year, a shortage of both Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B vaccines was reported in the UK. The situation has continued to worsen and due to serious manufacturing issues, it has now been labelled a global shortage.
Hepatitis A and B are acute infections of the liver typically caused by sanitation problems. Areas considered higher risk zones are South East Asia, Africa, India, China and South and Central America, so travelling to these locations is currently particularly risky.
With no immediate end to the vaccine shortage in sight, travellers are being advised to take a number of precautions if they are travelling to high-risk parts of the world. Ideally, these should be taken alongside a vaccine, but regardless they are helpful for keeping you healthy on your travels.
What precautions can you take abroad to reduce your risk of Hep A and B?
Because both conditions are spread through sanitation issues, especially via food and drink which have been contaminated, there are several steps you can take to reduce your likelihood of catching or spreading the infection.
The simplest and arguably most effective way to reduce your risk of hepatitis is through thorough handwashing. You should always wash your hands after using the restroom, and especially after having any contact with someone who already has either infection.
Food and drink awareness
You should also avoid unclean food and water, and do your best to ensure the food you’re eating has been cooked and cleaned thoroughly. This includes avoiding dairy products, raw or undercooked meat and raw or undercooked fish. You should also avoid buying food from street vendors, and be aware that sliced fruit may have been washed in contaminated water — travellers should peel all fruit and veg themselves. Heated food should also be hot to touch and eaten right away.
One of the most important precautions to take is to only consume bottled water. This not only includes for drinking purposes, but also for use when brushing your teeth. Ice cubes can also carry the infection. If no bottled water is available, tap water should be boiled for at least one minute, as this generally eliminates the virus and makes it safe to drink.
Avoiding contact with bodily fluids
Travellers should avoid contact with bodily fluids, especially blood. This includes avoiding unprotected sexual intercourse, avoiding tattoos, piercings and acupuncture, not sharing needles or any other injection equipment, and not sharing razors or toothbrushes.
By following these precautions, you can significantly reduce your risk of catching and spreading both of these hepatitis viruses. With a widespread shortage of the Hepatitis vaccine, it is even more important to take extra care and attention of your holiday health while the recommended vaccination remains unavailable.
If you have any queries relating to Hepatitis vaccines or any other vaccine, call on 0208 993 5889 and book an appointment at your nearest Express Travel Clinic.