Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is an infection of the liver that can cause flu-like symptoms and liver failure, and can be fatal. It is spread through contact with infected blood or body fluids, such as through sexual intercourse or sharing needles.

High-risk areas

Hepatitis B occurs worldwide but, in particular, it may be found in:

  • Africa
  • Central America
  • China
  • eastern Europe
  • India
  • Russia
  • South America
  • Southeast Asia
  • many of the south Pacific islands

The risk of hepatitis B for tourists is usually considered to be low. However, some activities will increase your risk, such as having unprotected sex, injections or body piercings.

The hepatitis B vaccine is recommended for travellers in high-risk areas who:

  • have unprotected sex, inject drugs, do relief work or work in a medical setting
  • stay in a high-risk area for a long time
  • require medical care in risk areas

The vaccine

Several different vaccines are available for hepatitis B. Most require a course of three doses. The second dose is usually given one month after the first and the third dose is then given five months later.

Once you have completed the course, you should be protected against hepatitis B for life. Healthcare workers are advised to have a booster dose after five years.

A combined hepatitis A and B vaccine is also available. The hepatitis B vaccine can be given from birth.