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
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
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
5. Avoid contaminated water.