News

Planning your vacation: Consider hepatitis vaccination before you go on vacation


Vacation time: Health experts advise certain travelers to be vaccinated against hepatitis

The summer holidays will soon begin in some federal states. In order not to come back from the "most beautiful time of the year" sick, holidaymakers should make provisions and inform themselves about the necessary vaccinations against infectious diseases - and get vaccinated if necessary. Protection against infection with hepatitis viruses is often particularly important.

Return healthy from vacation

The summer holiday season will soon begin in the first federal states and many people looking for relaxation will spend the "best time of the year" abroad. A vacation should actually make you happy and healthy. Unfortunately, illnesses sometimes occur when traveling abroad. Vaccinations are available against some infectious diseases. Holidaymakers should therefore find out about the vaccinations necessary and recommended for their travel destination before departure - and get vaccinated if necessary. What many do not know is that there are already risks of infection with the hepatitis virus in the nearby Mediterranean region. The German Liver Foundation therefore explains in a current communication how important vaccination protection against infection with hepatitis viruses is especially for travelers.

Every second hepatitis A virus infection is an unwanted travel souvenir

The expectations that travelers have of a perfect vacation vary widely. Some are looking for relaxation, others want to move more and then there are also holidaymakers who are looking for maximum fun.

However different the requirements may be, all travelers have one wish in common: return home safely.

To ensure this and to ensure that the liver is as virus-free on arrival as it is on arrival, travelers should be informed about risk areas, contagion routes and protection options.

"Over half of all newly diagnosed hepatitis A virus infections in Germany are unwanted travel souvenirs," says Professor Dr. Michael P. Manns, CEO of the German Liver Foundation and adds:

"Hepatitis A is called 'travel hepatitis'. It often occurs in popular holiday countries with low hygiene standards such as the Mediterranean, Southeast Asia, Russia, Africa, Central and South America and the Middle East. "

Transmission by smear or contact infection

The hepatitis A virus (HAV) is transmitted fecal-orally by smear or contact infection. The pathogen is excreted via the intestine by infected persons and has a pronounced environmental stability as well as high thermal stability and resistance to disinfectants.

For example, eating insufficiently cooked vegetables or drinking contaminated or contaminated drinking water (also called ice cubes) can lead to an infection with the HAV.

This infection with the HAV can cause acute inflammation of the liver, which, however, is not chronic and often heals in healthy people without serious complications.

The symptoms are mostly non-specific and can include fever and jaundice. In rare cases, such as in the elderly, hepatitis A can also lead to acute liver failure.

Prophylactic vaccination before departure

There is no specific therapy for hepatitis A. Prophylactic vaccination - which can also be given shortly before the start of the trip - is the safest protection.

Two vaccinations are required for primary vaccination. "The protective effect begins twelve to fifteen days after the first vaccination," explains the Techniker Krankenkasse (TK) on its website. "After the second vaccination, vaccination protection lasts for at least ten years."

Vaccination is also the safest protection against the hepatitis B virus (HBV), which can pose a further risk of infection on vacation. When using combination vaccines that protect against hepatitis A and B, the number of injections required is reduced.

Vaccination against hepatitis B even ensures double protection: the vaccine against HBV also protects against hepatitis delta, since there can only be hepatitis delta with hepatitis B.

Unsanitary conditions in the travel destination

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), around 240 million people worldwide are chronically infected with HBV. The HBV is infected via body secretions such as blood, sperm or saliva.

In addition to unprotected sex, tattoos or piercings that are not performed sterile are among the most common means of transmission.

There is also a risk of infection if there is contact with the risk of the smallest skin injuries, such as a barber, pedicure or unforeseen medical and dental treatments, if there are unsanitary conditions in the country of travel.

Most people who are infected do not notice their illness. However, if there is chronic inflammation of the liver, there is an increased risk of connective tissue-like changes in the liver (fibrosis) or of cirrhosis.

Early diagnosis is a prerequisite for successful treatment

So far, no vaccination has been available against the hepatitis C virus (HCV), another hepatitis pathogen. The HCV is transmitted almost exclusively via blood contacts.

Non-sterile tattoo needles, piercings or razors are the main sources of infection. In some regions of Asia or Africa, more than five percent of the population carry the hepatitis C virus.

Today there are very effective therapies for hepatitis C. The healing rates are usually between 90 and 100 percent. However, the disease is often recognized late and, if left untreated, can lead to cirrhosis of the liver or cancer of the liver and can thus be fatal.

Detecting hepatitis in good time can therefore be life-saving in exceptional cases.

Symptoms of hepatitis can vary depending on the type of virus, but at the beginning there are usually general symptoms such as tiredness, fatigue, headache, loss of appetite, fever and vomiting.

Other typical signs such as dark urine, light bowel movements and yellow eyes or skin ("jaundice") may appear later.

According to the WHO, around 71 million people worldwide are chronically infected with HCV. Chronic hepatitis C is the second most common cause of cirrhosis and liver cell cancer in Germany after fatty liver hepatitis.

“With all infections with a hepatitis virus, early detection is a prerequisite for successful treatment. The best health protection is to avoid infection. Vaccination and precautionary measures ensure that travelers return from vacation as healthy as they were when they started their trip, ”emphasizes Professor Manns. (ad)

Author and source information

Video: Your travel vaccination checklist (August 2020).