Hepatitis A & B: Everything you need to know

Hepatitis A and B are viral infections that can be contracted while travelling to Asia, Africa, Central and South America. While it is possible to avoid contracting hepatitis A and B through prevention and more attention to hygiene, it is highly recommended to get vaccinated when travelling.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A can cause liver problems and failure if contracted and left untreated. It is found in faeces and it is contracted through contaminated food and water. While vaccination for Hepatitis A is recommended when travelling abroad, it is especially important to protect yourself when visiting a developing country as hygiene is particularly poor and could cause long-term issues. Children are especially at risk as they are more likely to contract the virus because of their hand to mouth habits.

When travelling to a developing country, it is particularly important to have good personal hygiene and wash your hands frequently especially before handling and eating food.

Vaccination for Hepatitis A needs to be administered at least 2 weeks before travel, so make sure you plan your vaccination in advance. A reinforcing dose will have to be administered 6 to 12 months after the first dose. The side effects of the vaccination can include temporary tiredness and high fevers.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B can also cause long-term issues to the liver but it is transmitted through the exchange of bodily fluids. This exchange can happen during unprotected sex, blood transfusion or by using an unsanitized tattoo or piercing needle.

The symptoms for Hepatitis B include fever, gastrointestinal problems, diarrhoea, vomiting and abdominal pain.

Travellers are advised to contact their travel clinic 6-8 weeks before their trip to ensure protection. The vaccination for Hepatitis B comes in three doses, the first two being one month apart and the third one after 5 months. The booster will be required 5 years after the vaccination.

When travelling it is highly discouraged to:

  • Have unprotected intercourse
  • Get a tattoo, piercing or acupuncture
  • Sharing needles
  • Sharing toothbrushes or razors
  • Use non-sterile medical equipment

If you are thinking of travelling to any developing countries and areas where you think you will need protection from Hepatitis A and B, make sure you contact a travel clinic with plenty of time to spare. Enjoy your travels and make sure to check out our FREE travel advice page for some more useful information!