What is Hepatitis?
Hepatitis is a series of viral infections that all cause an inflammation of the liver if not treated, and is responsible for two out of every three liver cancer deaths. The theme of World Hepatitis Day 2018 was ‘Find the Missing Millions’, since 300 million people globally are living with viral hepatitis and are completely unaware of it.
Consequently, the Fleet Street Travel Clinic recommend that you ‘GET ADVICE. GET TESTED. GET VACCINATED’. This is especially the case if you are travelling to high risk areas, namely the Indian subcontinent, Africa, Central and South America, the Far East and Eastern Europe.
Hepatitis A is spread through food and water contaminated with the virus. Travellers should exercise caution by:
- Ensuring all food is cooked thoroughly and served hot
- Sticking to bottled water with a seal, or boiled water
- Avoiding ice as well as tap water
- Only consuming fruit that can be peeled or sliced without contamination (such as bananas)
- Avoiding high-risk food such as shellfish, raw or rare meat, salad, buffet food and reheated food
Hepatitis B and C are contracted through contact with infected blood and bodily fluids. This can include:
- Mother to baby transmission at the time of birth
- Unprotected sex
- Contaminated medical equipment such as needles and syringes
- Contaminated tattoo or body piercing equipment
9 out of 10 people living with viral hepatitis are unaware they have it. Significantly, Hepatitis C is the most common type in the UK and often causes no noticeable symptoms. Fleet Street Clinic offers a range of blood tests and health screenings, and testing is quick, easy, and painless.
Hepatitis A and B are easily preventable through vaccination, and we recommend the vaccine especially for the following people:
- Those who are at occupational risk (such as health care or aid workers)
- Travellers who visit high-risk areas, or those who travel frequently or for longer periods
- Travellers who have pre-existing conditions which may make it more likely for them to need medical attention
- Those who participate in lifestyle behaviours that may increase the risk (such as unprotected sex and injecting drug use)
Although there is no vaccine for Hepatitis C, it can be treated with effective antiviral medications.