Epidemiology and Infection

The importance of imported infections in maintaining hepatitis B in The Netherlands

I. K. VELDHUIJZEN a1a2c1, L. J. M. SMITS a1a3 and M. J. W. van de LAAR a1
a1 Department of Infectious Diseases Epidemiology, National Institute of Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), Bilthoven, The Netherlands
a2 Department of Infectious Diseases, Municipal Health Service Rotterdam, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
a3 Department of Epidemiology, University of Maastricht, Maastricht, The Netherlands

Article author query
veldhuijzen ik   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
smits lj   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
van de laar mj   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


In The Netherlands, in May 1999 an enhanced surveillance of hepatitis B was begun to collect detailed information of patients with acute hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection. The objective was to gain insight in transmission routes and source of infection of new HBV cases. Through public health services, patients were interviewed on risk factors. It appeared that the majority (59%) acquired the infection through sexual contact; 52% of these by homosexual and 48% by heterosexual contact. In 60% of the heterosexual cases, the source of infection was a partner originating from a hepatitis B-endemic region. Sexual transmission is the most common route of transmission of acute hepatitis B in The Netherlands and introduction of infections from abroad plays a key role in the current epidemiology of HBV. As well as prevention programmes targeted at sexual high-risk groups, prevention efforts should focus more on the heterosexual transmission from HBV carriers.

(Accepted September 7 2004)

c1 Ms. I. K. Veldhuijzen, Municipal Health Service Rotterdam, Department of Infectious Diseases, PO Box 70032, 3000 LP Rotterdam, The Netherlands. (Email: veldhuijzeni@ggd.rotterdam.nl)