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Viral Hepatitis: 8 Self-Defense Tips for Travelers

Here are eight tips to protect you when traveling to regions where hepatitis is prevalent.


Adults are also eligible to get a combined vaccine given in three doses over six months.

If you don’t have time for all of the injections before embarking on a trip, get the first injection. That way, you’ll have at least partial immunity. Another possibility is to ask the doctor about getting all of the injections on an accelerated schedule.

2. Know your destination.

Your risk of contracting hepatitis is small if you’re traveling to Canada, Japan, Western Europe, or another area where the disease isn’t prevalent and where sanitation is good.

But travel to a developing country where hepatitis is prevalent calls for extra vigilance.

Viral hepatitis is especially common in Sub-Saharan Africa, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, the Amazon basin, and Asia.

The World Health Organization and the CDC have maps that show countries with high rates of hepatitis.

3. Keep your hands clean.

Frequent hand washing helps keep fecal matter from spreading from your hands to your mouth, where it can cause infection. Wash your hands with warm, soapy water -- or use a hand sanitizer -- after using the bathroom or changing a diaper and before eating. If you must use a dirty bathroom, consider using a napkin or paper towel to turn off the tap and to open the door.

4. Watch what you eat.

Uncooked food, including fruits, vegetables, salads, and raw meat or shellfish, can transmit hepatitis. Where sanitation is iffy, stick with cooked foods -- eaten while they are still hot. Eat fresh fruits and vegetables only if you peel them yourself.

“It’s like we used to say in the Peace Corps,” Holmberg says. “Boil it, cook it, peel it, or forget it.” Finally, don’t buy food from street vendors.

5. Avoid contaminated water.

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