APH 2005, 63, 199-217:

Hepatitis A and B surveillance and immunization programmes in Europe: EUROHEP.NET project.

E. Leuridan, A. Vorsters, K. Van Herck, P. Van Damme, the Eurohep.net team

Keywords: hepatitis A, hepatitis B, surveillance, vaccination programmes

Aim: EUROHEP.NET is a concerted action, funded by the European Commission, studying the feasibility of creating a network on surveillance, epidemiology and prevention of vaccine-preventable viral hepatitis in Europe. The project aims to make an inventory of and to analyse the existing methods of surveillance and prevention policies, to identify the hurdles and to propose potential guidelines for standardisation in 28 countries.

Material and Methods: Local contact persons at the National Institutes for Public Health or at the Ministries of Health were requested to complete a survey on these items in 2003.

Results: In all responding countries (N=22), hepatitis A and B are notifiable diseases, but the surveillance methods differ widely. Differences in case definitions increase the difficulty of analysing and comparing epidemiological data. Overall, hepatitis B immunization programmes for children as well as immunization programmes for risk groups for both hepatitis A and B are almost everywhere in place.

Discussion: There is a need for harmonisation of surveillance methods and prevention activities in Europe. Potential hurdles for this harmonisation have been identified: e.g. difference in case definition
used, different age categories used for surveillance purposes. A network like EUROHEP.NET is feasible and useful to create a platform for discussion. A setting in which representatives of Ministries of Health, Institutes of Public Health, experts in the field and academic personnel are gathered, offers a unique opportunity to exchange expertise and knowledge and illustrates the need for a future network.