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GlaxoSmithKline Travel Health: 55 percent of travellers needlessly put themselves at risk from a potentially fatal virus

Travellers urged to seek hepatitis B vaccination before going abroad

London, UK (PRWeb UK) May 18, 2009 -- A new survey of travellers who visited hepatitis B endemic areas, reveals that over 55 per cent(1) of them were not vaccinated against the virus, which kills almost two people a minute(2).

More people are choosing destinations outside the Eurozone, such as Egypt and Turkey,(3) where hepatitis B may be common. The survey suggests that many travellers are still not seeking travel health advice and so putting themselves at risk of a preventable disease.

Despite its seriousness, the survey reveals that people admit they have travelled to destinations where hepatitis B is common without getting vaccinated and that they know little about the disease:(1)

  • 70 per cent admit that they don't know the health implications of contracting hepatitis B(1)
  • 75 per cent admit that they are unaware of the destinations where the risk of contracting the virus is increased.(1)

Hepatitis B is passed on via blood and body fluids and can cause flu-like symptoms, jaundice and more seriously, liver cancer. Vaccination is highly effective in preventing hepatitis B. Official sources estimate that as many as 180,000 people are infected with hepatitis B in the UK(4) however the Hepatitis B Foundation propose that this figure may be as high as 325,000.(5) Common in destinations such as Southern Europe, South-East Asia, Africa and the Middle and Far East,(2) hepatitis B is a global problem that has infected about 2 billion people, 350 million of whom have chronic (long-term) infection.(6) Worldwide, one million people die each year from the virus - that's nearly two people a minute.(2)

Dr Jane Zuckerman, University College London Medical School, comments: "Hepatitis B is a devastating disease and unfortunately many people have it without knowing about it. It is a silent killer that can lead to liver cancer. It is essential to protect your health by getting appropriate travel health advice and vaccinations before embarking on your trip. Make sure you don't become infected and get travel health advice and vaccinations as soon as you have booked your holiday."

Hepatitis B is a serious but preventable infectious disease. The virus can survive for up to a week in dried blood and body fluids and just a tiny cut or scratch can let it into the body where it can infect the liver.(7) Hepatitis B can be easily prevented by getting vaccinated well before the departure date. Vaccination is very effective in preventing hepatitis B and can provide travellers with peace of mind for many holidays to come.

Notes to editors
The survey
The online survey was conducted by on behalf of GlaxoSmithKline ( during April 2009. The survey was completed by 3,000 travellers. 1,897 visited destinations in the last five years where levels of hepatitis B are considered intermediate and high by the World Health Organisation. These respondents were questioned further.

Hepatitis B

  • Hepatitis B is second only to tobacco, as a cause of cancer in the world(8)
  • Hepatitis B can be caught by sharing contaminated objects eg razors, needles, equipment used for tattooing or manicuring etc. as well as through direct transfer of body fluids(9)
  • Many people with HBV (hepatitis B virus) infection have no symptoms while others develop flu-like symptoms. Some people will develop jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and skin) as a result of the liver inflammation(10, 11)
  • Worldwide, about 2 billion people have been infected with the hepatitis B virus(6)
  • Exposure to Hepatitis B while travelling is often unpredictable, resulting from accidents or illness while overseas(12)
  • Most new cases of chronic HBV infection, detected in the UK are acquired overseas(4)

GlaxoSmithKline Travel Health offers protection and services that go the extra mile.

GlaxoSmithKline - one of the world's leading research-based pharmaceutical and healthcare companies - is committed to improving the quality of human life by enabling people to do more, feel better and live longer.

1.   Online survey conducted by on behalf of GlaxoSmithKline. April 2009
2.   The Hepatitis B Foundation. (Last accessed 11.05.09)
3.   Provisional data for 2008. International Passenger Survey, National Statistics © Crown copyright material is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO (and the Queen's Printer for Scotland)/2008
4.   Pollard AJ. Hepatitis B vaccination. BMJ 2007; 335: 950
5.   Rising Curve: Chronic Hepatitis B Infection in the UK. The Hepatitis B Foundation UK. (Last accessed 11.05.09)
6.   World Health Organisation Factsheet No 204 2008 revision. Hepatitis B. (Last accessed 11.05.09)
7.   Mast EE et al. Transmission of blood borne pathogens during sports: risk and prevention. Ann Int Med 1995; 122 (4): 283
8.   De Franchis et al Consensus statement, EASL International Consensus Conference on Hepatitis B J Hepatol 2003; 39: S3-S25
9.   Zuckerman JN., Steffen R. J Travel Med (2000): 7; 170-174
10.   Ryder SD, Beckingham IJ ABC of diseases of liver, pancreas and biliary system: acute hepatitis 2001a BMJ; 322 (7280): 219-221
11.   Lin KW, Kircher JT. Hepatitis B. Am Fam Physician 2004; 69 (1): 75-82
12.   Zuckerman JN, Hoet B. Hepatitis B immunisation in travellers: poor risk perception and inadequate protection. Travel Med Inf Dis 2008; 6: 315-320


Sarah Matthews   
sarah-jessica.matthews (at) virgohealth (dot) com
020 8939 2466 / 07968 366 526

Robert Kingston   
robert.kingston (at) virgohealth (dot) com   
020 8939 2479 / 07745 555 713

Tara Lanigan
tara.lanigan (at) virgohealth (dot) com   
020 8939 2463 / 07973 931 048

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