Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a viral infection of the liver. It is usually spread through contaminated blood via sexual intercourse, needle sharing, blood transfusions and injections.

The virus can also be passed from mother to baby. Tattooing, body piercing and acupuncture are other ways in which the virus may be spread. The hepatitis B virus (HBV) can cause a short-term (acute) infection, which may or may not cause symptoms. Following an acute infection, a minority of infected adults develop a persistent infection called chronic hepatitis B. Many people with chronic hepatitis B remain well, but can still pass on the virus to others. Some develop serious liver problems.

Symptoms

Symptoms can include:

feeling sick being sick lack of appetite flu-like symptoms, such as tiredness, general aches and pains, headaches yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)

Very often, people don’t realise they have been infected with the virus because the symptoms may not develop immediately, or even at all. It takes between 40 and 160 days for any symptoms to develop after exposure to the virus.

Risk Areas

Hepatitis B occurs worldwide. Areas where there is a higher risk of exposure to hepatitis B include Eastern Europe, Russia, India, China, South and Central America, Africa, South East Asia and many islands in the South Pacific.

Precaution

Individuals should avoid risky behaviour e.g. unprotected sex, tattoos, piercings, visiting traditional barbers in high risk destinations. Dental and surgical procedures should also be avoided in high risk areas.

Prevention

Travellers at risk should consider the Hepatitis B Vaccination. This includes those who will be visiting areas where there is high risk of exposure to the virus. Hepatitis B vaccine is also available in a preparation that combines it with hepatitis A vaccine for convenience