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Travellers warned of hepatitis B risk
 
 
  Dec 5 2005
Madeleine Brindley, Western Mail
 
WINTER holidaymakers are being urged to consider vaccinations before they jet off abroad.
 
There are fears that some tourists may be at risk of contracting Hepatitis B by visiting well-known hotspots.
 
A survey by Glaxo-SmithKline Travel Health found that of people in Wales who were asked, 49% are planning to travel to at-risk areas, such as Eastern Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean, and many without essential vaccinations.
 
Dr George Kassianos, a GP and expert on immunisations, said, "Travellers may be unprotected from Hepatitis B due to lack of awareness of the disease and could be exposing themselves to potential risky situations without knowing it.
 
"This situation needs to be addressed, not least because the disease is easily preventable through risk awareness as well as vaccination."
 
Hepatitis B is up to 100 times more infectious than HIV and is transmitted by contact with infected blood or body fluids.
 
It is commonly associated with unprotected sexual contact, but the disease is just as likely to be spread through infected blood or blood products, as well as non-sterile medical, piercing and tattooing equipment or even sharing a razor or toothbrush with an infected individual.
 
Dr Kassianos said, "Accidents associated with popular holiday adventure sports, which require medical attention, are also increasing travellers' risks of exposure to the disease."
 
The survey also found that 37% Welsh respondents said they knew little ornothing about vaccinations when travelling abroad.
 
The Department of Health estimates 180,000 people in the UK are currently suffering from chronic Hepatitis B which kills up to one million people globally each year.
 
It is one of the world's most common and serious infectious diseases and is second only to tobacco as a human carcinogen, causing over 50% of all liver cancers.
 
Dr Kassianos added, "It is essential that people are more aware of the risks of travelling abroad without the necessary precautions and vaccinations."
 
Travellers are advised to visit their health centre or travel clinic for advice on measures to protect themselves against hepatitis B.
 
 
 
 
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