Hepatitis B Vaccine

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What is hepatitis b?

Hepatitis B is caused by a virus that infects the liver. It is one of the most common vaccine-preventable diseases affecting travellers and can cause either acute or chronic infection.

What is my risk?   

Speak with one of our Travel Health Specialists about the risk of Hep B in the destination you are visiting.

Your risk depends of several factors: destination, length of stay, what you do when you are travelling and whether you have direct contact with blood or other body fluids. In certain destinations, your risk may be higher, as some areas have higher numbers of people with chronic hepatitis B in the general population.  

The risk increases with certain activities, such as unprotected sex, sharing needles, tattooing and acupuncture.

Aid and health care workers and anyone who receives medical or dental care with unsterilized or contaminated equipment in a country where hepatitis B occurs are also at greater risk.

How is it transmitted?

Hepatitis B is highly infectious, and is spread from one person to another through exposure to infected blood and body fluids. It can be spread through:

  • blood transfusions or organ transplantation in countries where blood or blood products have not been properly screened for hepatitis B and other viruses transmitted through blood
  • unprotected sex with an infected person
  • sharing needles or equipment for injecting drugs
  • unsterilized medical/dental equipment and shared/contaminated materials or equipment used for tattooing, body piercing or acupuncture
  • sharing toothbrushes or razors
  • childbirth (an infected mother to her infant)
  • household contact between family members

What are the symptoms?

  • Symptoms can take two to six months to appear.
  • Many people who are infected with hepatitis B have either no symptoms or only mild symptoms.
  • Symptoms of acute hepatitis B can include fatigue, loss of appetite, joint pain, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, fever, and dark urine. A small number of people will develop jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes).
  • Some people develop chronic hepatitis B and most remain contagious for the rest of their lives. Chronic infection may lead to cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) and/or liver cancer. Most people with chronic hepatitis B are unaware of their infection.

What is the treatment?

  • There is no specific treatment for acute hepatitis B. Most adults completely recover from the infection by getting lots of rest, proper nutrition and fluids.
  • Antiviral drugs can be used to treat some chronic cases of hepatitis B infection.

Where is hepatitis B a concern?

Hepatitis B occurs worldwide.

Regions with higher numbers of people with chronic hepatitis B in the general population include parts of Southern and Eastern Europe, South and Central America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

Recommendations

Consult one of our Travel Health Specialist preferably six weeks before you travel.

Get vaccinated if you are at risk but are not immunized.

Hepatitis B may be vaccinated against independently, or in conjunction with Hepatitis A.

Protect yourself:

  • Avoid dental, medical or cosmetic procedures that penetrate the skin (e.g. transfusions, acupuncture, piercing and tattooing) unless you are certain that the needles, materials and equipment are sterile.
  • Always practise safer sex.
  • Do not share personal items such as toothbrushes and razors.
  • Never share needles or syringes.