Hepatitis In Africa

Hepatitis in Africa is a common disease that may result in an unpleasant and prolonged illness. It is important that travellers and hunters understand how the different types of hepatitis are spread.

Hepatitis is caused by various different viruses identified by the subsequent letters A, B, C & E. Hepatitis A & B are of most concern to travellers, though infection of Hepatitis C can be obtained by the same route as Hepatitis B and Hepatitis E can be obtained by the same route as Hepatitis A.

Hepatitis A Facts

  • Hepatitis A is spread by the faecal-oral route, person to person or through contaminated water or food. It is the second most common infection in travellers. Blood borne transmission occurs but is very rare.
  • Hepatitis A can be found worldwide and all of Africa is considered an area of high risk.
  • Vaccination, or screening for antibodies in those over 40 years of age, is the best and most effective way of preventing Hepatitis A.
  • Even with vaccination, travellers and hunters should be aware of good food and water hygiene. Avoiding potentially contaminated food and drink can prevent most cases of Hepatitis A.

Hepatitis B Facts

  • Hepatitis B is the third most common infection in travellers.
  • It is a disease, which affects the liver. It is 100 times more infectious than HIV and can survive in dried blood for up to seven days.
  • It is spread from person to person through contact with bodily fluids like blood, saliva etc. Sources of infection may include inadequately sterilized medical equipment like syringes, needles and other instruments. Bringing your own small first aid kit of sterile items is to be recommended.
  • Hepatitis B is found worldwide. Areas of high endemicity include tropical Africa.
  • Vaccination is available for those at risk.

Hepatitis Symptoms

  • Hepatitis symptoms are similar for all forms of the disease and as as a result of acute liver inflammation.
  • At first there is fever, chills, headache and fatigue. These symptoms are followed by anorexia, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.
  • The urine darkens and jaundice of the skin and eye sclera (white areas of eyeball) may develop.

Summary For African Travellers and Hunters

  • Immunoglobulin prophylaxis against hepatitis A is recommended for people visiting highly endemic areas.
  • Other hepatitis A preventive measures should be taken regarding hygiene, eating raw or undercooked food and drinking untreated water.
  • To prevent hepatitis B infection, travellers should be cautious regarding sexual encounters with local inhabitants, avoid using items that may have come into contact with other people's blood or other bodily fluids.
  • Seek immediate medical attention if any symptoms develop.
  • Travellers that believe they may be at particular risk of hepatitis B should consider immunization with hepatitis B vaccine.

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Page Updated: Mar 2024

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