Hepatitis B is a serious acute infection of the liver. The infection in some instances may also become persistent and progress to chronic liver disease, cirrhosis and liver cancer. It is usually spread through contaminated blood via sexual intercourse, needle sharing, blood transfusions 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 and areas where there is a higher risk of exposure include Eastern Europe, Russia, India, China, South and Central America, Africa, South East Asia and many south pacific islands.
Travellers at risk should consider vaccination. This includes those who will be in high risk areas or participating in activities where there is increased risk of exposure to the virus. Individuals should avoid risk prone behaviour e.g. unprotected sex, tattoos, piercings, visiting traditional barbers in high risk destinations. Dental and surgical procedures should also be avoided when possible.
Immunity is achieved by a series of Hepatitis B vaccinations; the vaccine is available either singly or in a combination form with other vaccines and is given in either adult or paediatric doses. As with all vaccines the clinical staff will advise during the travel consultation on all aspects of the procedure including vaccine dose schedule, contraindications to vaccination, any possible interactions with other vaccines or medications, the range of possible adverse effects from the specific vaccine and any queries. Written product information to retain for reference is also provided.