Hepatitis B is an acute infection of the liver. It is usually spread through contaminated blood or bodily fluids via sexual intercourse, needle sharing, blood transfusions, needle stick injuries 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.
Hepatitis B occurs worldwide. Areas with a high risk of hepatitis B exposure include Africa, the Western Pacific, South East Asia, the Indian sub-continent and the Eastern Mediterranean. The World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated that around 250 million people worldwide are chronically infected with HBV (WHO 2017).
If you are traveling to a risk area then vaccination is recommended for Hepatitis B as a precaution. Also, travelers should avoid contact with blood or bodily fluids by avoiding unprotected sex, sharing needles, tattooing, toothbrushes, razors, acupuncture (where sterility of equipment cannot be guaranteed).
The signs and symptoms of all forms of hepatitis are similar. Symptoms include mild fever, gastrointestinal upset, nausea/vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. Jaundice may also occur. Infection with hepatitis B results in lifelong immunity.
Travelers to risk areas should consider vaccination against Hepatitis B virus. It is advisable to book a consultation with a travel clinic 6-8 weeks before your travel. There are single dose vaccines as well as combination vaccines with Hepatitis A available.