When you travel, your risk of contracting certain diseases may increase depending on the countries you visit. That is the case for hepatitis. Given that this disease can have serious effects on your health, it is important to know what preventive measures to take.
While you can contract hepatitis without travelling, poor hygienic conditions in certain parts of the world make it likelier to catch the disease abroad. Travel also exposes you to other health problems, which may be avoided with the proper preventive measures. Be sure to research your destination and find out what precautions to take to avoid getting sick.
What is hepatitis?
Hepatitis is a disease of the liver caused by a virus. Its symptoms include weight loss, fatigue, joint pain, nausea, and yellowing of the skin, among others. Serious health complications can occur in certain cases.
There are various types of hepatitis, and each is caused by a different virus. Hepatitis A is the most common form among travellers, followed by hepatitis B. Hepatitis A and E can be transmitted through contact with an infected person’s stool but more commonly through contaminated water or food. Hepatitis B and D are transmitted through blood or through sexual intercourse, while hepatitis C is mainly a blood-borne disease.
Fortunately, hepatitis A and B may be prevented with vaccination. Since no vaccine exists for the other types of hepatitis, you should adopt the following measures when you travel:
- Wash your hands often, especially before you eat or drink
- Drink only bottled water. If that’s impossible, boil the water before drinking it or decontaminate it using iodine or chlorine
- Use bottled, boiled or purified water to brush your teeth
- Eat only fruits and vegetables that have not been peeled or cooked; avoid salads for instance
- Avoid non-pasteurized dairy products
- Make sure the food you eat is properly cooked, especially seafood
- If you engage in sexual intercourse, use a condom
- If possible, avoid activities that break the skin, piercing and tattoos for example
- Don’t use personal items, such as razors, belonging to other people
When you get home
If you were infected with hepatitis on your trip, several weeks can elapse before symptoms appear. In the months following your trip, if you feel symptoms that resemble those of hepatitis or symptoms that worry you, see a healthcare professional.
When you plan a trip, don’t neglect measures for preventing illness. By exercising caution, you can avoid most travel-related health problems. Prior to departure, make sure you’ve received all your vaccines and learn what precautions you should take in accordance with your destination and planned activities. You’ll then be able to travel with peace of mind, knowing that your health is protected!