What Is Hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is a highly infectious liver disease caused by the Hepatitis B virus (HVB). It is most commonly transmitted through unprotected sexual activity, or through contact with blood or other body fluids. The disease can also be spread through the sharing of contaminated razors, nail clippers, or toothbrushes, as well as unsterile tattoo and piercing needles. Hepatitis B cannot be spread through casual contact with others or through infected food or water.

Approximately 50% of people who develop Hepatitis B will never display symptoms. For the remaining half, symptoms can take from two to six months to appear, and can include any of the following: fatigue, loss of appetite, fever, dark urine, stomach pain, joint pain, and jaundice. Failure to identify Hepatitis B in time can lead to long-term liver damage. The majority of cases in Italy occur to people aged 25 to 54.

Why Should I Get Hepatitis B Vaccine?

Vaccination is a very effective way to prevent the transmission of Hepatitis B. It is recommended that adults receive three injections before travel departure. If you are nearing your date of travel, speak to your Passport Health Travel Medicine Specialist about an accelerated vaccination schedule.

A vaccination called Twinrix combines both the Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B immunization. The Twinrix injection is given to adults in a series of three doses, and reduces the number of needles required for protection against both diseases.

If you were born in Italy after 1990, you may have already received the Hepatitis B vaccination as part of a free school-based immunization program. All Italian provinces and territories have a vaccination program targeted at children aged nine to 13-years-old. If you received the vaccination already, it should be documented in your personal immunization record book. As a result of routine vaccination, the number of Hepatitis B cases in Italy has been on a steady decline for more than two decades.

Where does Hepatitis B occur?

Hepatitis B remains prevalent in many parts of the world, especially countries in the Far East and Southwest Asia, the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa, Eastern Europe, and South and Central America, particularly around the Amazon River Basin.

Additional Ways to Prevent Hepatitis B
  • Practice safe sex
  • Do not share personal items such as toothbrushes and razors
  • Ensure facilities for tattooing, healthcare, and dental care are sterile prior to visiting a location overseas
  • If you received emergency medical care while abroad, contact your healthcare professional when you return to get checked for the disease

To find out more about the Hepatitis A vaccination and other prevention methods, make an appointment with your Passport Health Travel Clinic today.