APH 1998, 56, 209-232:

Hepatitis B: a public health problem.

P. Van Damme, M. Van der Wielen, M. Beutels, K. Van Herck, A. Vercauteren, and A. Meheus

Keywords: Belgium, epidemiology, hepatitis B, prevention, public health

Hepatitis 8 is a major public health problem and remains an important infection in the community despite the availability of safe and effective vaccines since more than 15 years.

Because hepatitis B infection is largely asymptomatic, with possible longterm complications occuring after many years, it has not received the attention it deserves. The failure of the high risk immunization strategy and a better understanding of the burden of disease of hepatitis B, have caused a profound re-evaluation of the current vaccination strategies

Govemment delegates to the World Health Assembty agreed in May 1992 that alt countries should integrate hepatitis B vaccination into their BCG- national immunization programmes by 1997 (3).

In western Europe, some countries still remain unconvinced that the burden of disease warrants the expense of universal vaccination. However, epidemiological data emphasize the necessity for action. In addition, economic evaluations showing that universal hepatitis B vaccination is cost-effective in low-endemic countries, indicate that control of hepatitis B by universafl immunization is attainable.