Which Hepatitis Vaccine for Africa?


Oct 15th, 2005, 06:53 AM
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Which Hepatitis Vaccine for Africa?

I am trying to prepare early for our trip in March and am getting any medications/vaccines we would need to go to South Africa. My dr. said that Hepatitis B would be all that we would need, but I read on the state department site that Hepatitis A is also recommended. Would you really need both?
mgtr is offline  
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Oct 15th, 2005, 09:25 AM
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my travel clinic doctor recommended hep a vaccine. if having intimate contact with local residents, then he recommended hep b vaccine.
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Oct 15th, 2005, 10:20 AM
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I would recommend Hep A for most people, and Hep B if you anticipate sharing of body fluids with locals (this includes medical work). That being said, Hep B is a reasonable precaution for people who plan to return to Africa often. It takes several months to complete the Hep B series.

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Oct 15th, 2005, 12:19 PM
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Hepatitis A is the type spread by food, water, etc. It can make you feel really sick, but generally people recover and it will not kill you.

Hepatitis B (and C for which there is no immunization) is spread by direct contact with blood, some other body fluids, and by sexual contact. It is not caught by any type of casual contact. However, it is a far more serious disease for many people and can lead to life-long liver problems.

Therefore, most people would be more likely to catch Hepatitis A. Immunization is one shot. Hepatitis B is a series of 3 shots and it takes a full 6 months for full protection (although many people are protected after the first 2 shots which are given 1 month apart.)

Hepatitis A and B are often added to the list of routine immunizations suggested for everyone, not just travelers. Many very good local internists are not all that familiar with what immunizations are suggested or required for travel to various places - I would collect info from Dept of State, CDC, and if possible a travel medicine clinic at large MD practice or hospital.

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Oct 15th, 2005, 12:44 PM
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Hepatitis B is routinely included with childhood immunizations and many employeers will pick up the cost for their employees. As a teacher I was immunized. I've also had my Hepatitis A.
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Oct 15th, 2005, 01:00 PM
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As Jasher mentions, unless you will be in direct contact with locals where blood is likely to be a factor - i.e., aid workers, Peace Corps, NGOs, etc. - all that is needed is Hep A, which is two inoculations... the second given 6-mo to 1-yr after the first. However, there is currently a combination A/B inoculation (believe it's called Twinex) that some physicians, clinics recommend. Once inoculated, you should be set for 10-years.

The Hep A inoculation will protect you during your world-travels, as well as at home.

There is no inoculation for Hep C which damages the liver.

Tetanus is also recommended and is good for 10-years.

Re: Polio booster which is also recommended, this will depend on which Polio shot you had as a child. The earliest batches have probably exhausted their usefullness; later versions should protect you for life. A blood test given by your physician will provide an answer as to whether you require this. Though Polio has techically been eradicated worldwide, there are periodic outbreaks... so discusss with your medical professional. If you need this booster, once given you should then be set for life.

And, of course, don't forget your malaria meds if you'll be traveling to an infected area for safari. These are not required if only visiting Capetown and Johannesburg.
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Oct 15th, 2005, 01:52 PM
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Wait! I typed that backwards. At the dr.'s office I had the first shot for A not B. And I then read that B was recommended.
I noticed an above poster said that A was only one shot. I actually am scheduled for a second shot in 6 months. Is that normal?
mgtr is offline  
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Oct 15th, 2005, 06:17 PM
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A booster Hep A shot is normal.
afrigalah is offline  
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Oct 15th, 2005, 06:25 PM
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Hep B too if you think there is the remotest chance you could end up in hospitalized in Africa. Third world hospitals present the opportunity for inadvertant receipt of other people's bodily fluids without the sex. My travel doc said to get in just in case.
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Oct 16th, 2005, 02:02 AM
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There is now a combined Hepatitis A and B immunization - so to get that you need 3 shots (although I think the third shot is just Hep B).

You have gotten some good advice above - I think the most important is that you should start the series of shots now - not just for travel but for life in wherever your real world is as well.

Many people who have Hepatitis B or C never have symptoms - and these are the people most likely to become carriers and both transmit the virus and suffer long-term liver consequences. (So roll up your sleeve and have a good trip!)
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Oct 18th, 2005, 06:48 AM
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The www.cdc.gov site immunizations/Southern Africa is quite thorough.
Travelling in the "3rd world" without Hep A is unwise. Hep B has always seemed reasonable to me as I have somewhat irrational fears of being injured or needing surgery. The fact that I am a physician living in Central Mexico made my decision easy.

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