What is Hepatitis B ?
Hepatitis B is a disease caused by infection of the liver with the hepatitis B virus – the hepatitis B vaccination can prevent it. Symptoms develop 1-6 months after exposure and can include fever, jaundice and flu-like symptoms including vomiting. Hepatitis B is transmitted through activities with contaminated/infected blood, blood products and other bodily fluids.
Exposure is most common through unprotected sex, needle sharing or procedures with needles, or rarely by infected blood products. Trace amounts of blood are all that’s needed to become infected with the virus.
What you may not know…
Hepatits B virus can survive on surfaces for at least 7 days and is 100 times more contagious than the HIV virus. Almost 1/3rd of people who contract Hepatitis B have no idea where they got it from.
How it affects you…
Hepatitis B can cause permanent liver damage and is also the main cause of liver cancer which can be fatal, (10% of those infected may develop long-term infection). Canadians are now immunized against Hepatitis B as children or teenagers. However many adults have not received this protection.
What can you do to protect yourself?
Immunization is one of the most effective preventative measures. You should get immunized if you are visiting a country where hepatitis B is high risk and/or staying six months or longer, or if you are expecting to have sexual relations or blood contact with local residents regardless of your length of stay. The vaccine is given as a series of 3 or 4 doses.
Nova Travel Clinic also carries a combined vaccine called Twinrix to protect you against both hepatitis A and B. The vaccine is available as a standard series given in 3 doses, or for last minute travelers as an accelerated series given in 4 doses. For the standard dosing you will require the first two doses of twinrix for protection for your upcoming trip; the third dose will provide lifetime immunity.
What else can you do?
Further precautions include: Safe sex practices, avoid getting tattoo’s or body piercing, do not share needles or razors, do not use illicit injectable drugs.
You should get vaccinated if….
- You are travelling to an international destination
- You have a chronic liver disease
- Work in the health care field
- Work in the food industry
- You have a compromised immune system
- You will be working abroad, even if for a short period of time
The map below shows high to low level risk areas for Hepatitis B
For further information, please click Travel Health.