Local and Community News
California: Officials Warn Travelers of Hepatitis
July 9, 2003
East Bay officials in California are concerned that world travelers focusing on SARS this summer might fail to take precautions against more common hepatitis viruses. Visitors to developing countries risk contact with hepatitis A and B, both of which are highly contagious and preventable through immunization, said Francie Wise, Contra Costa's communicable disease program chief.Adapted from:
The liver-attacking viruses come in five forms -- A, B, C, D and E. The first two forms can cause symptoms ranging from fatigue and nausea to death in chronically infected people. The World Health Organization lists risk of infection for A and B as "moderate to high" in Africa, Asia, South America and Central America. But the risk is easily avoided with a vaccine taken before heading overseas. Yet, Wise said, only 25 percent of travelers reported being vaccinated against hepatitis A and B, according to findings announced at a recent International Society of Travel Medicine conference.
Hepatitis A can be spread through contaminated food and water, putting some swimmers at risk, as well as anyone eating in remote areas. Travelers need to remember that the ice in their drink could contain a dangerous virus, Wise said. The B variety is more associated with the exchange of blood and other body fluids. The disease can be transmitted through unprotected sex, needle sharing, blood transfusions, body piercing and tattoos.
Contra Costa County offers the vaccines at six public health clinics. An appointment is not necessary. For the location and hours of clinics, telephone 800-246-2494.
Contra Costa Times
07.08.03; Peter Felsenfeld