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Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is caused by a virus that infects the liver. It is one of the most common vaccine-preventable diseases affecting travellers and can cause either acute or chronic infection.

Your risk depends of several factors: destination, length of stay, what you do when you are travelling and whether you have direct contact with blood or other body fluids. In certain destinations, your risk may be higher, as some areas have higher numbers of people with chronic hepatitis B in the general population.

The risk increases with certain activities, such as unprotected sex, sharing needles, tattooing and acupuncture.

Aid and health care workers and anyone who receives medical or dental care with unsterilized or contaminated equipment in a country where hepatitis B occurs are also at greater risk.

  • Symptoms can take 2 to 6 months to appear.
  • Many people who are infected with hepatitis B have either no symptoms or only mild symptoms.
  • Symptoms of acute hepatitis B can include fatigue, loss of appetite, joint pain, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, fever, and dark urine. A small number of people will develop jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes).
  • Some people develop chronic hepatitis B and most remain contagious for the rest of their lives. Chronic infection may lead to cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) and/or liver cancer. Most people with chronic hepatitis B are unaware of their infection.

Source: Health Canada