The causative agents of infectious hepatitis lurk not only on tropical trips. Hepatitis A and B are also common in Mediterranean countries such as Italy and Spain. Effective protection provides the vaccine. The causative agent of hepatitis A, the hepatitis A virus (HAV), is particularly prevalent in subtropical and tropical areas as well as in the Mediterranean and Eastern Europe. In these countries, the vast majority of the population becomes acquainted with the virus as a child. In adulthood, these children are then immune to this disease. In Germany, on the other hand, most adults of hepatitis A are defenseless.
Danger for tourists
For people without naturally acquired immunity and without vaccine protection there is a high risk of infection when traveling to these countries. Most commonly, the virus is transmitted from infected persons through contact with fecal matter: major sources of infection are food contaminated by virus carriers and fecal contaminated drinking water. Incidentally, even people who appear healthy, can be contagious, because already one to four weeks before disease symptoms occur, many viruses are excreted in the stool. Extremely popular sources of infection are also raw or insufficiently cooked mussels and oysters from contaminated waters. Tourists who enjoy the wanderlust under unfavorable hygienic conditions have a particular risk of Hepatitis A. It is estimated that one out of every 50 "hitchhikers" gets hepatitis A. But even travelers who stay at the 5-star hotel are not faced with an infectious surprise immune.
Different course of the disease
In the majority of older children and adults, the typical symptoms of liver inflammation occur. The white sclera in the eye turns yellow, the urine gets the color of dark beer and the chair turns light to white. There are also nausea and general exhaustion. About one third of sufferers also suffer from fever, chills and joint pain. Even though hepatitis A is never chronic and only rarely severe, it puts them out of action for one to two months. In rare cases, the disease can last up to three quarters of a year. In infants, however, hepatitis A is generally without the typical liver symptoms. As a result, the infection is often not recognized. Although the disease is usually harmless to the children themselves, they become a source of infection, for example for older siblings, parents ... and tourists. A real vaccination against hepatitis A infections is the vaccine alone.
Hepatitis B can be deadly
The same is true for hepatitis B. It is the dangerous "sister" of hepatitis A, so to speak. Among the deadly infectious diseases, it ranks third. It claims the world's most fatalities after tuberculosis and malaria. Those who survive the acute stage are threatened with deadly complications such as liver cirrhosis and liver cell cancer. Almost one percent of Germans carry the virus in themselves. The hepatitis B virus (HBV) is transmitted through blood and body secretions. Sexual contacts are therefore the main source of infection.
Only vaccination protects
Effective protection against infection with hepatitis A and B provides the vaccine. Vaccines are available from various manufacturers for both children and adults. The easiest way is to get vaccinated with a combination vaccine that gives years of reliable protection against both types of hepatitis. Only 2 vaccinations at intervals of 4 weeks and a third six months after the first vaccination, the hepatitis lose their horrors.
Hepatitis A and B at a glance
- Hepatitis A: contaminated food, infected toilets
- Hepatitis B: blood and mucous membranes
- Hepatitis A: travel abroad, especially the Mediterranean
- Hepatitis B: Unprotected sex, blood transmission, contaminated syringes
- Hepatitis A: 2 to 9 weeks
- Hepatitis B: 1 to 6 months
Acute course with healing:
- Hepatitis A: 99 percent
- Hepatitis B: 90 percent
- Hepatitis A: no
- Hepatitis B: 10 percent
- Hepatitis A: Yes
- Hepatitis B: Yes