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Are expats in Thailand at risk of infection of hepatitis A, B & C?

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The 28th of July is a World Hepatitis Day. Taking place annually since 2011, this observance’s goal is to raise awareness of risks and treatment options for viral hepatitis worldwide. Viral hepatitis B and C affect 325 million people globally each year. These diseases are the leading causes of liver cancer, leading to 1.34 million deaths every year, because of late treatment and lack of testing.

 

Travelers and expats alike get the vaccination against the most common types of hepatitis, but it’s important to note that shots have to be regularly renewed, as one set of vaccines usually protects you for around 10 to 15 years. For those living in Thailand, this is especially important information, since hepatitis A is quite common in this region, and even if it’s not life-threatening like HBV or HCV, it can still make one’s life miserable. Here, Pacific Prime Thailand discusses the major strains of HPV, as well as how to address the costs of treatment associated with them.

About Hepatitis

Hepatitis is a group of infectious liver diseases with related symptoms, such as fever, jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes, and/or dark-colored urine), enlarged liver, fatigue, nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. In today’s article, we will focus on the viral forms of hepatitis, and in particular hepatitis A, B, and C.

Hepatitis A

HAV is endemic to Southeast Asia, and Thailand is especially at high risk due to poor sanitation standards across the country. You can get infected by the hepatitis A virus by consuming contaminated food or water.

 

It’s advisable to get vaccinated against hepatitis A, as it is (for now) the only known way to combat and prevent this disease. Personal hygiene and food contamination prevention is also essential, and involves frequent washing of hands, and consuming only bottled/cooked water and cooked food in Thailand.

 

The disease is not considered lethal. However, alcohol consumption in conjunction with hepatitis A can cause serious complications.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a mostly sexually-transmitted disease, and the risk of getting infected highly depends on your lifestyle choices. You can also get infected through contact with a sick person’s blood, and by taking drugs intravenously. This type of hepatitis is way more severe than HAV, as it can stay inactive in a person’s body for their entire life, during which time it can be spread to other people.

 

When active, it attacks the infected person’s liver and can develop into a chronic disease. If untreated, it can even be a direct cause of liver cancer. There is no cure for hepatitis B, but you can and should be vaccinated for it, especially if you live in the rural portions of Thailand.

Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is transferable through contact with infected people’s blood. Potential places where you can get infected are hospitals, dentists, or hair, nail and tattoo salons. In other words, anywhere where there is an increased risk of blood loss occurring..

 

Hepatitis C is also called a silent killer because it can develop asymptomatically for many years, making it a leading cause of liver cancer and liver transplants worldwide. If diagnosed early, it can be cured completely.

Increased hepatitis risk factors in Thailand

Territory factor

 

Thailand is considered a developing country, which makes your chances of getting infected way higher than, for example, if you live in Hong Kong. When it comes to consumption of contaminated food and drink, hepatitis A is simply more likely to occur in Thailand than many other countries around the world.

 

In addition, nearly 75% of people chronically infected with HBV worldwide are from the Southeast Asia and Western Pacific regions. In 2015, approximately 3 million Thais were chronic HBV carriers, where 60% of that number were people over 45 years old.

 

Since the introduction of blood screening program for blood donors in Thailand in 1992, and also since the proliferation of vaccinating babies against HCV, the disease’s morbidity rate has impressively decreased.

 

Age factor

 

Usually, people with low immunity, such as babies, older people, or people with AIDS, are at the highest risk of being infected. This is still true even after vaccination, as vaccines are seen to work effectively about 90% of the time. The risk of hepatitis C for the so-called “baby boomers” generation, is even higher. The HCV strain was only discovered in 1989. This meant that for many hospital procedures, such as blood transfusions, donors were not tested for hepatitis C. Thus, many seniors might be suffering from the disease and not even know about it. That’s why blood tests for different hepatitis strains are so important.

Does your insurance cover hepatitis treatment?

When moving for work or retiring in Thailand, it’s so important to have comprehensive medical insurance. Having access to private clinics and hospitals in Thailand is essential for expats who don’t speak the Thai language, and may put them further at ease when it comes to the medical care standards found in international and private hospitals. The treatment of different strains of hepatitis can be lengthy and costly processes, and can potentially fall under the banners of both outpatient and inpatient benefits depending on the severity of infection.

 

A set of medication to treat hepatitis C in Thailand can go up to 40,000 baht (US$1,254), with multiple check-ups needed for at least 6 months. Vaccination prices can vary from around US$11 for the HBV vaccine to US$43 for hepatitis A, plus doctor’s fees.

 

The dangers of hepatitis and the costs of treatment are why it is so important to know your coverage and opt for treatment in top private hospitals to ensure professional and adequate protection from the disease in Thailand. If you would like to know more about health plan options for expats in Thailand, the team of experienced insurance advisors at Pacific Prime Thailand is ready to help. Contact them for a free quote and impartial advice.

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