Hepatitis C is the most dangerous strain of the hepatitis virus that a traveler could encounter out in the world. It is not vaccine preventable, but luckily there are some easy tips to help you stay free and clear of this deadly virus.
Hepatitis is a disease which causes inflammation of the liver. Many people are aware of hepatitis but don’t know much about it. Hepatitis can be contracted many different ways, such as sexual activity, eating undercooked food, and drinking bad water among others. The dangers of hepatitis are real and very relevant to a traveler. Being aware of the different types of the disease, how you can prevent contracting them, and what to do if you do contract hepatitis are important. Below we will be talking about hepatitis C and the necessary information to keep you safe while out on the road. Follow my other posts on Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and my comparison of Hepatitis A, B, and C.
Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV) that leads to massive swelling of the liver. While hepatitis C is not nearly as common place for travelers as hepatitis A or B, it is a much more severe and dangerous form of the disease. Unlike hepatitis A and B, hepatitis C has no vaccine to aid in prevention. It is because of this fact that a traveler must always be aware of their decisions to prevent contraction of hepatitis C.
Hepatitis C Causes and Transmission Risks
Hepatitis C is not as easily contracted as hepatitis A or B. Hepatitis C is mainly transmitted through blood-to-blood contact. The most common mode of transmission of the virus is through the sharing of needles. Sharing needles when injecting intravenous drugs is the biggest risk factor for any person to contract the hepatitis C virus. The virus can also be spread through unprotected sexual intercourse. Unsterilized needles used at a medical facility, tattoo parlor and acupuncture studio are also known ways to transmit the virus. Sharing of any items that may have blood on them, such as a toothbrush, razor or nail clippers, can also lead to transmission. It is important to note that you can not contract the virus through casual contact like kissing, hugging, holding hands, coughing etc.
Hepatitis C Symptoms
Up to 80% of people who have contracted hepatitis C have no known symptoms. It has been known to take as long as 10 to 20 years before any symptoms are seen, and it is often that they are brief and not severe in nature. Unfortunately, it is often the case that when symptoms do begin to occur there has already been great damage done to the liver. In a few cases, people have been known to acquire “flu-like” symptoms. This will usually happen a few weeks after contraction. Those symptoms include:
- Loss of Appetite
- Abdominal Pain
- Joint Pain
- Dark Colored Urine
- Pale Colored Stool
The greater danger is for the eventual development of cirrhosis, a liver disease that causes the liver tissue to be replaced by scar like tissue. This eventually leads to liver failure and often death. It is because of the fact that hepatitis C often has no visible symptoms that you must see a medical professional as soon as possible if you believe you have been exposed to hepatitis C.
Prevention Tips for Travelers
Hepatitis C has no vaccine. That means it is all up to you to stay safe and virus free. When traveling you must make sure that you are safe and that you are aware of all your decisions and the risks that may come with them. Having as much fun on your trip as possible is always the goal, but don’t put your health on the line just for a little extra fun. Be smart, and you are going to have an amazing time. Here are a few important tips to keep yourself Hepatitis C free while traveling the globe:
- Always practice safe sex. That means wear a condom!
- Don’t share personal items that may have blood on them with anyone else, especially if you believe they may be a hepatitis C carrier. These objects include: toothbrushes, razors, nail clippers and tweezers.
- Do not share needles under any circumstances. Whether these are needles used for recreational drugs or for medical procedures, make sure that you are using clean, sterilized needles at all times
- If for any reason you need to touch blood, make sure that you are wearing gloves. This is especially true for medical professionals.
Hepatitis C is a very dangerous virus that can lead to severe medical problems down the line. Thankfully, if you are smart and careful on your travels you should have no worries in regards to hepatitis C. Always be aware of your surroundings, think out your decisions, and be safe. It is better to be out exploring the world than spending your travels in your bed. Safe travels.
Photo credit: flickr user Brittany G