ABC Guide to Travel Health - Vaccines, Vaccinations

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Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is a serious viral infection of the liver caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV).26 Most HCV infections are asymptomatic. In cases of HCV that are symptomatic, the symptoms may include stomach pains, nausea, vomiting, fatigue and sometimes jaundice (a yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes).26,27 Seventy-five to 85% of people infected with HCV develop a long-lasting chronic infection, which may lead to scarring of the liver with impaired function and/or liver cancer.26,27

Transmission is from person-to-person, primarily through activities that result in the exchange of blood. For example the infection can be spread through transfusion of contaminated blood and blood products and the use of contaminated needles, syringes and other instruments used for injections and other skin-piercing procedures. Sexual transmission of hepatitis C occurs rarely.

Geographical distribution26,27
Worldwide, the prevalence is higher (up to 15%) in some countries in Africa and Asia, and highest (>15%) in Egypt.

See hepatitis C distribution map

Risk for travellers26,27
Travellers are at risk if they practise unsafe behaviour involving the use of contaminated needles or syringes for injection, acupuncture, piercing or tattooing. An accident or medical emergency requiring blood transfusion may result in infection if the blood has not been screened for HCV.

Precautions and prevention26,27

  • There is no vaccine to prevent hepatitis C infection.
  • Adopt safe sexual practices.
  • Do not share other persons’ razors.
  • Avoid the use of any potentially contaminated instruments for injection or other skin-piercing activities, such as acupuncture, piercing or tattooing.

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