Viral hepatitis in travellers.

Cândida Abreu

Abstract


Considering the geographical asymmetric distribution of viral hepatitis A, B and E, having a much higher prevalence in the less developed world, travellers from developed countries are exposed to a considerable and often underestimated risk of hepatitis infection. In fact a significant percentage of viral hepatitis occurring in developed countries is travel related. This results from globalization and increased mobility from tourism, international work, humanitarian and religious missions or other travel related activities. Several studies published in Europe and North America shown that more than 50% of reported cases of hepatitis A are travel related. On the other hand frequent outbreaks of hepatitis A and E in specific geographic areas raise the risk of infection in these restricted zones and that should be clearly identified. Selected aspects related with the distribution of hepatitis A, B and E are reviewed, particularly the situation in Portugal according to the published studies, as well as relevant clinical manifestations and differential diagnosis of viral hepatitis. Basic prevention rules considering enteric transmitted hepatitis (hepatitis A and hepatitis E) and parenteral transmitted (hepatitis B) are reviewed as well as hepatitis A and B immunoprophylaxis. Common clinical situations and daily practice "pre travel" advice issues are discussed according to WHO/CDC recommendations and the Portuguese National Vaccination Program. Implications from near future availability of a hepatitis E vaccine, a currently in phase 2 trial, are highlighted. Potential indications for travellers to endemic countries like India, Nepal and some regions of China, where up to 30% of sporadic cases of acute viral hepatitis are caused by hepatitis E virus, are considered. Continued epidemiological surveillance for viral hepatitis is essential to recognize and control possible outbreaks, but also to identify new viral hepatitis agents that may emerge as important global health issues.

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