Travel Vaccines for Hepatitis

Travel vaccines are highly recommended to adults travelling from the UK to parts of the world where particular diseases run rampant. While we are fortunate to have a rigorous system of immunisation here in the UK, many parts of the world aren’t so lucky, and these are often subject to outbreaks of virulent disease. Moreover different climates allow different viruses and bacteria to flourish, which means that in these environments we can potentially become exposed to contagious diseases to which we have no immunity, and which can therefore pose a serious health risk. One of these major concerns is hepatitis, and in this article we look at travel vaccines available to adults for the treatment of hepatitis.

Hepatitis and travellers

There are two types of hepatitis which are a concern to travelling citizens and which can be vaccinated against.

Hepatitis A affects the liver, and is caused by a virus of the same name. This particular virus flourishes in conditions where poor hygiene results in the contamination of food and water. Hepatitis A is more prevalent in areas like Africa, eastern and southern Europe, the Middle East, and the Far East, and if you are travelling to any of these locations it is advised that you arrange a vaccination.

Hepatitis B is also a liver disease however it caused by a different class of hepatitis virus, the hepatitis B strain is transmitted through contact with infected bodily fluids as opposed to through contaminated food and water sources. This is why hepatitis B is more of a risk where lifestyle factors like regular unprotected intercourse, shared needles, or medical work can potentially bring you into contact with infected bodily fluids.

Hepatitis B isn’t limited to specific areas and can be found across the world, again largely where lifestyle factors help the disease to spread. However the condition is more common in the areas mentioned above, where hep A is present as well (the Middle and Far East, Africa, and parts of Europe). 

The hepatitis vaccines

The hepatitis A vaccination is provided as two injections, the first is to introduce the virus into your system and provide you with protection against hep A infection, and the second is to boost the original dose and is provided between half a year to a year after the initial injection. Together, these two doses can offer you as much as 20 years of immunity against hepatitis A.

Hepatitis B is delivered under a number of different immunisation schedules, but generally speaking three injections are offered. The first being an initial immunisation with two booster injections offered a month after the first injection, and 5 months after the second.

You can arrange to have a combined vaccine which is designed to immunise you against both strains of hepatitis, or a vaccine which offers protection against typhoid and hepatitis A and B. Separate booster injections will still be needed to ensure adequate protection in the long term.

Arranging the hepatitis travel vaccines

It is recommended that you arrange the hepatitis travel vaccines at least two weeks prior to your departure, however it is possible to have the injection the day before you leave. You can arrange these vaccinations at your doctor’s practice or through private providers in the UK.

While the first dose of the hepatitis A vaccine is covered by the NHS, you will have to pay for booster injections and any and all hepatitis B injections you arrange.

While vaccination is a highly effective method of protecting against the spread of hepatitis, there are steps you can take to make sure that you reduce your chances of infection even further. For hepatitis A avoid any foods that are raw or have not been properly cooked, as well as any water that does not come from a sealed bottle. Hepatitis B can be avoided by not sharing needles or having unprotected intercourse.

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