RESEARCH – November 2004

Viral hepatitis B and C: an actual epidemiological problem in the last decade in Estonia


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The more extensive spread of hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection with the parenteral mode of transmission in Estonia during the last decade is characterized not only by the high level of acute cases but also a significant increase in the estimated level of chronic viral hepatitis.

Several changes were found in the age structure and routes of transmission in the case of these infections. The overall prevalence of HBV and HCV infection is the highest among persons aged 15–19 and 20–29 years and is higher among men. Injection drug use (IDU) is the predominant mode of transmission of these infections among the youth. Sexual contacts turned out to be a significant risk factor for acquiring HBV and HCV infection during the last 2–3 years.

The results of our survey revealed very high HBV and HCV prevalence among the IDUs visiting anonymous consulting rooms of Northern and Northeastern Estonia. The prevalence of these infections as well as of mixed infection (HBV + HCV) was significantly higher among the imprisoned HIV-positive IDUs.