Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is much more serious than Hepatitis A, though it is not as easy to get.

Hepatitis B is usually caught by exposure of other peoples body fluids to a cut or lesion on your skin, but it is also commonly spread by sex. The virus is present in blood, fecal matter, semen, menstrual blood, vaginal secretions, and urine. However, it's not transmitted by contaminated water or food.

(It is often caught by blood transfusions, and can be spread by the mouth or eyes in some ways, but the main risk to foreigners in Thailand is by sex.)

There is no cure for Hepatitis B. However, you can get immunization.

Infection can cause major liver damage and adversely affect quality of life and life expectancy. Alcohol tolerance is also severly affected.

It's estimated that nearly 2% of people in the US have hepatitis B.

The good news is that only about 5% of adults who get acute hepatitis B will develop chronic or longterm infection. About half won't even know they ever got it.

Unfortunately, children are an entirely different matter. Over 90% of infants (e.g., infected from the mother) and about 50% of children with an acute infection will develop chronic or longterm symptoms. Therefore, be extra cautious to not infect your wife if you plan to have children, and it's a good idea to immunize children travelling to Thailand.

Between 5-10% of adults, and about 90% of babies who contract Hepatitis, will be carriers for life able to pass the virus on to others. All adults are contagious shortly after infection.

The vaccination against Hepatitis B is effective in more than 90% of adults. A blood test will tell whether the vaccination has been successful for you.

Like the Hepatitis A vaccine, the Hepatitis B vaccine is a program of 3 shots. If the 1st shot is today, the 2nd shot is 1 month later, and the 3rd shot is another 5 months later, i.e. 6 months from 1st shot (though the third shot can be delayed a little). When sufficient resistance occurs is debatable. Some say soon after your first shot, others say later.

You can start your vaccination program in your home country and continue it here in Thailand. Make sure to bring your vaccination documentation with you when you come.

brief fact sheet is available at http://www.metrokc.gov/health/prevcont/hepbfactsheet.htm

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