What is Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis is a complicated disease. There are five basic forms - A, B, C, D, E - and each form is further broken down into types and sub-types. Hepatitis C, like Hepatitis B, is a virus that attacks the liver.
Millions of people in developed countries have Type 1 of the Hepatitis C virus, but they are unaware because in most cases there are no symptoms. However, this acute condition can develop into a chronic condition causing liver cancer or cirrhosis.
What Are The Symptoms?
In many cases there will be no symptoms, but some people may notice a yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice), dark urine, extreme tiredness, nausea, sickness and stomach pains - the same as Hepatitis B.
How Is It Contracted?
The Hepatitis C virus is transmitted via blood and other bodily fluids, including saliva, menstrual, vaginal, and seminal fluids. It can be passed from mother to child at birth, and the risk of an infant developing chronic Hepatitis C is very high. Sexual transmission is also possible and drug users can contract it by sharing infected needles.
I am most familiar with Thailand and visitors should be careful if engaging in sexual activity with commercial sex workers, of which there are many.
Hygiene standards in Thai hospitals and dental surgeries tend to be quite high so I would imagine that the risk of contracting Hepatitis C through surgical instruments is quite low, however, many foreigners visiting Thailand like to have tattoos done and hygiene standards in some of Thailand's tattoo parlours may not be so stringent.
Who Is At Most Risk?
People who have undergone blood tranfusions, kidney dialysis, or recipients of donated organs. People who have injected drugs. Anyone who may have come into contact with bodily fluids from an infected person.
Where Are You At Risk?
Hepatitis C occurs worldwide, but with a higher risk in certain parts of Africa and the Middle East. Infection rates in North America and Europe are surprisingly high.
There is no vaccine for Hepatitis C.
There is a drug to treat Hepatitis C and apparently it is very effective, however, it is also very expensive. The drug is called Harvoni™ and the manufacturer's claim is that it can cure 99% of sufferers.
One tablet a day is taken for a normal duration of 12 weeks
This drug costs the UK's National Health Service (NHS) around £35,000, although someone has estimated that it costs only a fraction of that amount to produce. Because it is so expensive it is only given to a few patients, those whose symptoms are most severe.
Cheaper drugs are available on the NHS, but the success rate is only around 50% with these drugs and there are some serious side-effects. Obviously, sufferers will want to take Harvoni™, but many people will be denied the drug because of its cost. What can you do if you are denied?
The pharmaceutical company, Gilead, who manufacture Harvoni™ has licensed pharmaceutical companies in India and China to make the drug locally and these versions are considerably cheaper.
Darvoni™, an equivalent of Harvoni™ manufactured by Beacon Pharmaceuticals in Bangladesh under license, can be bought for around US$1,000 for a complete 12-week course - a fraction of the cost of Harvoni™.
It can be ordered on-line from the Beacon Pharmaceuticals website and according to their information, "Most countries allow the legal importation of 12 weeks medication for personal use," therefore it is perfectly legal.
Incepta Pharmaceuticals, another Bangladeshi pharmaceutical company, also makes a version of Harvoni™ under license called Twinvir™.
This says a lot about so-called 'developing' countries and the greed of the pharmaceutical companies in developed countries.
Source Of information
GlaxoSmithKline, Wikipedia, local doctors, local hospitals, newspaper articles, various.
Travel Related Diseases
Thailand is an incredibly photogenic country, both for its landscapes and its people. Regardless of whether you enjoy large Asian cities, beaches and islands, or rice fields and mountains, Thailand has something for you and it is a dream destination for photographers.
One of the great things about visiting Thailand is that hotels are plentiful and a lot cheaper than in most other countries. Each link on the right will take you to the relevant page on the Agoda website where you can see photos, read reviews, and book on-line. I tend to use Agoda to book all of my own hotels in Thailand and the Southeast Asia region. I generally find Agoda hotel rates to be the lowest and I have received good customer service, therefore I am happy to recommend the company to other people.
Booking.com used to be more expensive than Agoda, but when I have checked hotel prices recently I have found their rates to be quite competitive. Unlike Agoda, you don't need to pay at the time of booking with Booking.com - you can simply pay at the hotel when you check in. Also, Booking.com show you total prices whereas Agoda show you a price and then add on 17% for tax and service charge.
If you wish to compare prices between different on-line travel agents (OTAs) for a specific hotel, you can use a company such as HotelsCombined.
Images of Thailand