Six years of sentinel surveillance of hepatitis B in general practice in France

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Despite the availability of a safe and efficacious vaccine, new cases of infection by hepatitis B virus (HBV) still occur at a substantial rate. This increases the current prevalence of chronic HBV carriers (10% of newly infected subjects) and in the long run, will raise the incidence of chronic liver disease. The surveillance of viral hepatitis commenced in December 1990 by the French sentinel network for electronic surveillance of communicable diseases. Between 1991 and 1996, a decrease in the annual incidence was observed although it was not significant (p = 0.06). The mean number of cases for this period was 12 per 100,000 inhabitants. The sex ratio (M/F) was 1.6 (pp<0.01) and the median age, 32 years. Heterosexual transmission was suspected in 25% of cases, homo- bisexual transmission in 10%, use of injected drugs in 19%, percutaneous exposure in 9%, and blood transfusion or hemodialysis in 6%. Although the incidence of HBV infection is decreasing, the prevalence of chronic infection will continue to rise. However, the universal hepatitis B immunisation strategy proposed by WHO will dramatically limit the expansion of the population of chronically infected subjects if high coverage is achieved rapidly.

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