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Can I avoid hepatitis on holiday?

Can I avoid hepatitis on holiday?
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Hepatitis is common worldwide but easily prevented

World Hepatitis Day is 28 July this year. In Canada we are lucky enough to have easy access to testing and treatment for the viral liver disease hepatitis. It kills 4,000 people a day.

In Canada, it’s easy to get vaccinated against some forms of hepatitis. But according to the World Health Organization, worldwide more than 325 million people are burdened by hepatitis. Of them 290 million don’t know they have it. So when you are travelling you are more likely to be exposed to hepatitis than when you’re at home.

How do I know if I’ve got hepatitis?

The symptoms of hepatitis vary from mild to serious. Symptoms include:

  • fever
  • loss of appetite
  • nausea
  • pain in the abdomen
  • yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice).

 Some cases of hepatitis progress to serious liver damage. Liver failure is an emergency and if you see these symptoms, get medical advice right away:

  • drowsiness, irritability and memory problems
  • nosebleeds or bleeding gums or a tendency to bruise easily
  • sudden vomiting.

You are particularly at risk from hepatitis if you have:

  • had a tattoo or piercing done in non-sterile conditions
  • had medical care somewhere with low hygiene standards
  • lived in a place where hepatitis is common
  • received blood or had a transplant before 1992
  • shared drugs paraphernalia
  • shared toothbrushes or razors.

If any of these apply to you, you should get tested.

Where is hepatitis common?

There is a worldwide risk of hepatitis A, though it is more common in:

  • Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan
  • East Asia
  • North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa
  • South and Central America
  • the Middle East.

Hepatitis B is prevalent worldwide but there is a particular risk in Africa, China, India, South and Central America, as well as Southeast Asia.

Where can I get tested for hepatitis?

If you don’t know your hepatitis status, you should talk to your normal healthcare provider about getting tested.

How can I protect myself from hepatitis?

Avoiding the activities that put you at risk from hepatitis is a good start. But if that is not possible, then make hepatitis testing part of your healthcare regime. Your healthcare provider can help you assess your risk and decide on the right way forward.

There are vaccines for hepatitis A and hepatitis B. Hepatitis A is contracted via food and water contaminated with the feces of an infected person. Hepatitis B is blood-borne.

Read our vaccines pages for more information on hepatitis A and hepatitis B.

How do I get vaccinated against hepatitis?

You can have shots for hepatitis A and hepatitis B individually. Or you can receive protection from a combined hepatitis A and B shot. This can be a cost-effective way of protecting yourself while you are travelling. When you come for your travel health appointment at our travel clinics in Ottawa and Toronto your travel health nurse will help you decide which travel vaccines are right for you and your trip.

Where can I get travel vaccinations in Calgary?

If you need an appointment at a travel clinic in Calgary, turn to Canadian Travel Clinics. It is quick and easy to book online.