SARS Just One Threat for Travelers
July 3, 2003
Travelers may be worrying about SARS, but they could be ignoring the two most common diseases for travelers.
International travelers may be exposed to serious health risks from hepatitis A and B, two highly contagious viruses that attack the liver. These two are the most common illness acquired by travelers. Contra Costa Health officials say international travelers may be needlessly putting themselves at risk.
"Hepatitis is caused by five separate viruses - A, B, C, D, E - but the good news is that hepatitis A and B can be prevented through a vaccine", said Francie Wise, Contra Costa Public Health Division's Communicable Disease Program Chief.
A new study presented at the conference of the International Society of Travel Medicine stated only 25% of travelers reported being vaccinated against hepatitis A and B even though the vaccine is readily available.
"Hepatitis vaccines may be obtained from private health providers, or from our Public Health Clinics. We offer the vaccine through our immunization clinics", added Wise.
Contra Costa County has six public health clinics throughout the county that see patients on a drop-in basis. Appointments are not necessary, however the clinics close once they have reached their limits. For locations and hours of the County's Public Health Clinics call 1-800-246-2494 or visit their web site at ccpublichealth.org. Information on hepatitis is also available on the web.
According to Wise, vacationers may unknowingly be engaging in activities that will expose them to the disease.
"Travelers who engage in risky behavior including unprotected sex are putting themselves at risk. Adventure sports and water activities increase the chances of injury or exposure to diseases and receiving medical treatment in developing countries increases the risks of contracting hepatitis B", said Wise.
Wise says hepatitis A is a disease spread most often by contaminated food or water. Hepatitis B is spread through blood transfusion, sexual contact, IV drug use, body piercing and tattooing.
"Hepatitis is a disease that does not discriminate. Vacationers are at risk whether they stay at inexpensive hotels or at five star inns. It is important to understand that these diseases are preventable by a simple vaccine", said Wise.
# # #