Poor or non-existent water purification processes in some areas mean that water used to wash food or to drink can become contaminated with Hepatitis A
Health officials: Take precautions before vacationing to protect against Hepatitis A
January 16, 1998
Web posted at: 10:43 a.m. EDT (1043 GMT)
From CNN Food & Health Correspondent Holly Firfer
ATLANTA (CNN) -- Vacation is the last place you might worry about picking up an infectious disease. But according to health officials, about 30,000 new cases of Hepatitis A are reported every year in the United States -- mostly from travelers returning from countries with questionable sanitation, where the virus may be transmitted through the water.
The Hepatitis Foundation International is trying to reach vacationers before they set sail to such places. Travelers are finding warnings in gourmet magazines, like Food and Wine, and travel magazines.
"Lettuce can transmit the disease if it is washed with contaminated water," said Thelma King Thiel of the Hepatitis Foundation International. "Also fish, if it's any fish or food that's washed in water that's contaminated."
The Hepatitis A virus is transmitted through poor or non-existent water purification processes in some areas, where water used to wash food or to drink can become contaminated with bodily waste. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that the old saying "don't drink the water" may not be enough.
Health officials recommend vaccinations a month before travel begins. The only exceptions are trips planned to Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Western Europe or Scandinavia.
Although Hepatitis A is not a chronic illness like Hepatitis B or C, the virus will cause a loss of appetite, diarrhea, and vomiting -- symptoms which can last weeks.
"The average incubation period is about a month, but the range is 15 to 50 days," said Dr. Beth Bell of the CDC. "So you are not going to start to get sick when you are way if you go away for a week or two. You are going to ... get sick when you get back."
And since Hepatitis A is highly transmissible from person to person, prevention can make sure you don't bring anything more than a t-shirt to your friends and family.
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