How to Protect Yourself Against Hepatitis Whilst on Holiday

July 13, 2023

When planning a holiday, the last thing you want to think about is the possibility of falling ill – perhaps why some people fail to take out all-important travel insurance before heading off.  However, in some parts of the world, it’s hugely important to take medical precautions before you travel, which is where vaccinations come in.

One condition that you are at risk of contracting on certain trips is Hepatitis -  a global risk brought into focus by a World Hepatitis Day which falls annually in late July. With hepatitis being a risk, particularly in some destinations and types of terrain, Europesure has the following advice for you.

What is Hepatitis?

According to the NHS website hepatitis is the term used to describe inflammation of the liver, which is often the result of a viral infection or liver damage caused by drinking alcohol.

There are several different types of hepatitis (A, B and C are the most well-known).  Some will have no serious consequences, whereas others can be long lasting and lead to cirrhosis, loss of liver function and, in extreme cases, liver cancer.

Hepatitis C is contracted through the exchange of bodily fluids.  This can occur in various way, including by sharing toothbrushes or razors, sharing needles and by passing the disease from mother to baby.  There is actually no vaccination for hepatitis C, so travellers need to focus on protection against hepatitis A and B.

Hepatitis A

If you are travelling to certain parts of Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Central and South America then hepatitis A is a risk.

This condition is spread through faeces and is found in places where there may not be access to clean water.  The most common ways for people to contract hepatitis A are:

  • drinking unclean water
  • eating food that's been washed or grown in unclean water.
  • eating food that's been handled by an infected person.
  • close physical contact with an infected person, including having sex and sharing needles to take drugs.

The risk is typically higher in places that are a little off the beaten track or in food establishments that are less than salubrious, but stay aware of the risks, wherever you are. 

The best way to try to prevent hepatitis A is to have a vaccination before you travel. Contact your doctor’s surgery to find out where this can be administered and make sure you leave enough time to arrange it, as you may need to book in to a clinic.  Typically, you need to have a hepatitis A vaccination around two weeks before travelling.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B can be contracted anywhere, as it is found worldwide.  However, it is more common to contract this disease in parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Southern and Eastern Europe and parts of South America.

You can get hepatitis B in a number of ways including:

  • being injured by a used needle
  • having a blood transfusion in a country that does not check blood for hepatitis B. (Blood transfusions in the UK are checked for hepatitis B).
  • having a tattoo or piercing with unsterilised equipment
  • injecting drugs using shared needles.
  • having penetrative sex without barrier protection

To try to steer clear of hepatitis B, avoid risky behaviours and, if you are going to a country where the cases of hepatitis B are high, get vaccinated.  You will need to do this around 6-8 weeks before travelling, so make sure you build it into your travel planning.  Waiting to have that tattoo until you get back home, makes great sense!

If you need help finding out what country-specific vaccines are recommended visit Travel Health Pro. There, you should find the advice you need.

Should you fall ill overseas, despite having taken all the right precautions, it is essential that you have a good travel insurance policy to call upon.  Head to www.europesuretravelinsurance.com and choose from single trip holiday insurance for worldwide destinations including the USA and Canada, or annual multi-trip policies that will also cover these destinations, as well as others, each time you travel, for the specified number of days per trip.  Different levels of cover are available, to suit your budget and requirements.

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These travel insurance products are brought to you by Europesure Insurance. For EU and EEA policies: Status Europesure Insurance Cyprus is a trading name of Status Insurance Agents, Sub-Agents and Consultants CY Ltd which is authorised and regulated by the Insurance Companies Control Service in Cyprus, number 5015. Incorporated in Cyprus, Number HE394801: 5 Rafael Santi, 1st Floor, Office 101, 6052 Larnaca, Cyprus. Status Insurance Agents, Sub-Agents and Consultants CY Ltd is a wholly owned subsidiary of Status Insurance Management Ltd. For UK and Gibraltar policies, Europesure Insurance is a trading name of Status Insurance Management Ltd which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in the UK. Their FCA number is 305697. Registered in England Number 1785590: First Floor, Jebsen House, 53-61 High Street, Ruislip, Middlesex, HA4 7BD.
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