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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.

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Dirty (reused) hypodermic needles can spread hepatitis, as can acupuncture needles and instruments used to make tattoos or piercings.

If there’s any doubt that a needle is sanitary – such as in an area where adequate sterilization techniques are unavailable -- avoid it.

What about medical care? If you’re in a developing country, “don’t get a blood transfusion or any type of IV unless absolutely necessary,” Palmer says. Invasive medical or dental treatment makes sense only if the benefits clearly outweigh the risks -- for example, if you need emergency treatment for life-threatening injuries sustained in an accident.

8. Steer clear of blood. 

It’s prudent to assume that blood from another person is infectious. “Any blood exposure can transmit hepatitis B and C,” says John W. Ward, MD, director of the CDC’s division of viral hepatitis.

If you need to render first aid to someone who is bleeding, do your best to avoid contact with his/her blood. If blood does get on you, wash it off at once.

“It’s OK to be a Good Samaritan, but make sure open cuts and sores are covered,” Palmer says.

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Reviewed on January 07, 2010

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