10. tbl 92. árg. 2006


Viral hepatitis B and C among immigrants in Iceland

Lifrarbólga af völdum lifrarbólguveira

Læknablaðið 2006; 92: 669-73

Background: Viral hepatitis B and C are a major health problem worldvide. The prevalence of these diseases varies throughout the world. In Iceland, the incidence of hepatitis B and C has increased in recent years. At the same time, the number of immigrants from countries where viral hepatitis is endemic, has also increased. The aim of this study was to investigate the epidemiology of hepatitis B and C among immigrants in Iceland.

Material and methods: Immigrants from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) were screened for hepatitis B and C. Medical records for the years 2000-2002 were reviewed for country of origin, viral serology and liver transaminases. Information was gathered from the State Epidemiologist's central registry of notifiable diseases and from the Icelandic Directorate of Immigration on the number of residence permits issued.

Results: 70% of all immigrants from countries outside the EEA during the study period were included in the study. Blood samples were obtained from 2946 immigrants. 83 (2.8%) had hepatitis B and 24 (0.8%) had hepatitis C. Prevalence of hepatitis B was highest among immigrants from Africa,11/171 (6.4%; 95% CI: 3.3-11.2%) and hepatitis C among immigrants from Eastern Europe, 16/1502 (1.1%; 95% CI: 0.6-1.7%). 482 (16%) had serological markers of previous hepatitis B infection. Of all registered cases of hepatitis B, immigrants were 56% and of hepatitis C 10%.

Conclusions: 1. Majority of those diagnosed with hepatitis B during the study period were immigrants. 2. Among immigrants, hepatitis B was more prevalent than hepatitis C. 3) The high prevalence of hepatitis B justifies screening for the disease in this population.

Key words: hepatitis B, hepatitis C, immigrants, epidemiology.


Correspondance: Sigurður Ólafsson,



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