Travel time – Hepatitis time?
There is one in the alphabet of hepatitides that cannot be vaccinated against: hepatitis C. In turn, you can (and should) get vaccinated against some diseases before you leave, such as z.B. against hepatitis A and hepatitis B.
In fact, about 1% of all Europeans suffer from hepatitis C, but about 5% of residents of southern Mediterranean countries and Africa do. (WHO 2000). In Germany are about 800000 infected, three quarters of the infected do not know about their disease.
Infection, if hygiene measures are inadequate, can occur through the blood: Piercing or tattooing – quickly applied in the vacation mood – can be a trigger for infection if unclean instruments are used. Many become infected through needle exchange during the administration of drugs. Not necessarily typical for a vacation, but the main source of infection.
What are the effects of the hepatitis C virus?
People who become infected with the virus suffer after an incubation period of ca. 1 – 6 months in some cases of flu-like symptoms such as headache, aching limbs and nausea. Many sufferers report nausea at the slightest smell of certain foods.
Rather rarely, yellowing of the skin and eyes or darkening of the urine and light coloring of the stool occur. After a short time, these symptoms disappear, and a large proportion of infected people have no symptoms for many years afterwards.
With ca. 10-20 % of the affected people heal the disease without therapy. However, in most cases, the immune system is unable to fight the hepatitis C virus on its own. If the virus remains in the patient’s body for longer than 6 months, it is called chronic hepatitis C.
If hepatitis C disease is not treated, at least 30-40% of those infected can be expected to develop a chronic course of the disease with serious clinical consequences, said Alfredo Alberti, Padua/Italy.
Although the number of new infections is gradually decreasing, the complications and consequences of chronic hepatitis C are expected to place an increasing burden on healthcare systems in the coming years. The need for liver transplants is expected to increase by 528% by 2008. The rate of liver-associated deaths will increase by 223%, the incidence of hepatocellular carcinoma by 68% (Davis et al., 1998).
The good news: with timely diagnosis and therapy, 3 out of 4 patients can be cured, i.e. become virus-free. But also the remaining quarter has better chances to be spared from cirrhosis or hepatocellular carcinoma after therapy.
The right way: if hepatitis C is suspected (slightly elevated transaminases, frequent fatigue or poor performance), the family doctor should be consulted. A simple blood test, which is paid by the health insurance and does not load the budget of the family doctor, can already bring certainty.