Scientists caution that vaccinations for hepatitis B should be made mandatory to professional rugby players before they embark on a sporting tour. This would prevent the spreading of this dangerous disease among sportsmen and women. The warning follows a study, which identified the risk of the spreading of virus among sports people through contaminated sweat.
Hepatitis B spreads easily through contact. The virus when contacted initiates a potentially lethal liver infection. It is passed on through infected blood and also via other contaminated body fluids putting drug users and people having unprotected sex most at risk. The virus attacks the liver and can cause liver cirrhosis, liver cancer, liver failure and death.
Researchers studied the blood samples from 70 Olympic wrestlers of ages between 18 and 30 and tested them for hepatitis B virus. Traces of the virus were detected in the blood of nine of them.
Further tests revealed the presence of virus in the sweat of eight of the men. The levels of virus found in sweat were similar to those found in the blood.
Selda Bereket-Yücel at the Celal Bayar University in Turkey said, 'The results of this study suggest that sweating may be another way of transmitting hepatitis B virus,' she said.
The researchers advise all professional sports bodies to make hepatitis virus tests mandatory at the onset of players' careers and also urge them to get vaccinated. The researchers conclude: 'Clinicians and staff of athletic programmes should aggressively promote hepatitis B virus immunization. The advice of sports organizations should be changed, making hepatitis B virus immunization obligatory for contact sports.'
More than 1,000 people in the UK are believed to have hepatitis B, according to the British Liver Trust. Many people do not realize they have been infected as symptoms develop slowly, according to NHS Direct.