A rise in chronic hepatitis B cases

Every second hepatitis B infection reported in the EU is now a chronic infection. The upward trend in the number of cases observed in 2008 is thus continuing.

Rising numbers are the result of more intensive screenings

Every second hepatitis B infection reported in the EU is now a chronic infection. The upward trend in the number of cases observed in 2008 is thus continuing.

In 2017, thirty countries across the EU reported a total of 26,907 hepatitis B (HBV) infections. This corresponds to about 6.7 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. Of these cases, about 9% were acute infections, and 58% were chronic. The remainder of the cases could not be classified more precisely due to missing information.

A decrease in acute, increase in chronic infections

In most EU countries there was a continuous decrease in newly reported acute hepatitis B infections (2008: 1.1 per 100,000 inhabitants; 2017: 0.6 per 100,000 inhabitants). This also reflects the current global trend and "is most likely due to the series of successful national vaccination programs". In countries with active vaccination strategies against hepatitis B, the proportion of acute hepatitis B infections in people younger than 25 years of age decreased from 20% (2008) to 12% (2017).

At the same time, however, according to the Disease Authority, the number of reported chronic hepatitis B cases rose from 6.7 per 100,000 inhabitants (2008) to 10.2 per inhabitant in 2017. The highest incidence was observed among 25-34-year-olds.

This increase in newly diagnosed cases of chronic hepatitis B may be related to the increased intensity of local testing and screening. For example, the highest reporting rates were recorded in the Nordic countries. At the same time, however, these countries also have the most comprehensive test programs.

Sex as the greatest source of risk for an acute infection

In the currently documented acute cases of hepatitis B, the virus was most frequently transmitted through heterosexual contacts (27%). Nosocomial infections accounted for approximately 16% and infections between men having sex with men (MSM) were documented at 13%. Among chronic infection patients, mother-to-child transmission (41%) and nosocomial infection (28%) led the list of major transmission pathways.

European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC)

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