Surge in hepatitis A in Chile

Seafood crabs on display

There has been a surge in cases of hepatitis A in the regions of Bio Bio and Nuble in Chile, with cases having increased by 140 per cent since last year. In 2018, 779 cases have been reported so far. Possible reasons for the increase are the incorrect preparation of seafood for consumption, consumption of poor-quality drinking water water and insufficient hand washing.

Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable viral disease passed onto humans primarily through oral contact with the faeces of an infected person, which can occur through contaminated food and water, by handling everyday items and sexual contact. The disease poses a significant risk for travellers to developing countries where sanitation and hygiene are lacking. Travellers can protect themselves with a course of hepatitis A vaccine, which offers highly effective immunity that protects for 20-30 years.

When it comes to minimising infection from contaminated food, travellers are advised to wash all fruit, salad ingredients and vegetables before eating, peel all fruit and vegetables that are to be eaten raw, protect food that is left out by covering it with a fly net, washing hands before eating and avoiding dairy food and food that has been left unrefrigerated for more than three or four hours.