Are you planning a holiday in the sun? As you prepare for your trip, don’t forget to check if you need to be vaccinated against hepatitis A and hepatitis B. These two viral infections can cause serious liver problems. Fortunately, they can easily be prevented with a vaccine.
Ensuring your peace of mind when you travel
Going on a trip is a great way to escape from your everyday routine and discover new landscapes. Most travellers make sure to plan ahead and prepare for unforeseen events. For instance, there are effective ways of preventing ailments that can spoil your vacation, including getting vaccinated against hepatitis A and B.
The risk of contracting hepatitis A or B depends on several factors, including:
- Your destination
- The length of your stay
- The type of vacation (off-the-beaten-track or luxury)
- The risk of contact with blood, body fluids or contaminated water and food
- Some activities (unsafe sexual intercourse, tattooing, and so on)
What is hepatitis?
Hepatitis is a liver disease caused by a viral infection. While the symptoms of hepatitis A and hepatitis B are similar, the diseases are caused by different viruses.
Hepatitis A is transmitted by fecal-to-oral transfer. For instance, this can happen when you eat food or drink water that is contaminated, especially in developing countries.
Hepatitis B for its part is a bloodborne disease that can be transmitted via sexual intercourse or by sharing personal items with a person who is infected. A mother can also transmit it to her child during pregnancy or childbirth.
In most cases, the infection caused by these viruses resolves itself in a few weeks. However, the hepatitis B virus can lead to chronic infections for some people. The carrier may then infect other people and suffer serious symptoms. Fortunately, these two viral infections can easily be prevented through vaccination.
Who should be vaccinated?
The Quebec vaccination program includes a vaccine against hepatitis B and it is free for children at two, four and 18 months. A vaccine against both hepatitis A and hepatitis B is free for children in grade four. The vaccine against hepatitis A alone is not available as part of the Quebec vaccination program.
Ravelling to certain parts of the world can expose you to the risk of being infected, especially when it comes to hepatitis A. This risk is present whether you stay at a five-star hotel or go trekking in the woods. That’s why prevention is so important.
You should also get vaccinated if you :
- Are a man and have sexual intercourse with other men
- Use drugs intravenously
- Live with an infected person
- Have chronic liver problems
There are many other reasons to get vaccinated. Don't hesitate to consult your pharmacist who will be able to assess whether your vaccinations need to be updated and will also be able to prescribe and administer the vaccines you are missing.
The vaccine against hepatitis A consists of two doses administered at a six to 12-month interval. As for the hepatitis B and hepatitis A and B vaccines, you’ll need three doses administered over a six-month period. If you’ve already received a dose of vaccine against hepatitis, be sure to mention it to the healthcare professional in charge of administering your vaccination.
The vaccine is 95% effective. This figure is higher for people who are in good health when they comply with the vaccination program. If the entire vaccination program cannot be completed prior to departure, you should still get a first dose to limit the risk of infection.
Vaccines against hepatitis A and B produce very little side effects. Some pain in the area of the injection, nausea, fever or headaches may occur.
To avoid complications, be sure to inform the healthcare professional if you are pregnant or breastfeeding or if you have a particular health problem or allergy.
The importance of prevention
Hepatitis A and B can affect anyone and bring about serious health consequences. Fortunately, vaccination is an effective option for preventing health problems. Your pharmacist can certainly help you decide whether you should get vaccinated against hepatitis A and hepatitis B – so feel free to speak with them!