ECDC publish hepatitis B and hepatitis C annual epidemiological reports for 2018

28 July 2020

Article: 54/3003

On 22 July 2020, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) published  2018 epidemiological reports for hepatitis B and hepatitis C.

In key findings from the hepatitis B report: 

  • In 2018, 30 EU/EEA member states reported 24,588 cases of hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection. When the five countries that only reported acute cases are excluded, the number is 24,034, which corresponds to a crude rate of 6.0 cases per 100,000 of the population. 
  • Of all cases, 10% were reported as acute, 51% as chronic, 30% as unknown and 9% could not be classified. The highest rate of acute infections was observed among 35–44-year-olds, with the highest rate of chronic infections was among 25–34-year-olds. 
  • The rate of acute cases has continued to decline over the last few years, which is in accordance with global trends and most likely reflects the impact of national vaccination programmes. 
  • Among acute cases with complete information, heterosexual transmission was most commonly reported (26%), followed by nosocomial transmission (19%) and transmission due to sex between men (14%). 
  • Among chronic cases, mother-to-child transmission and nosocomial transmission were the most common routes of transmission reported, recorded at 37% and 26% respectively.

In key findings from the hepatitis C report: 

  • In 2018, 37,527 cases of hepatitis C were reported in 29 EU/EEA member states. When the countries which only reported acute cases are excluded, the number is 37,427, which corresponds to a crude rate of 8.8 cases per 100,000 of the population. 
  • Of the cases reported, 4% were classified as acute, 26% as chronic and 67% as unknown. 
  • Hepatitis C was more commonly reported among men than women, with a male-to-female ratio of 2.1:1. 
  • The most affected age group among males was between 35–44 years, and for females it was between 25–34 years. 
  • The mode of transmission was reported for just 21% of cases. The most commonly reported mode was injecting drug use, which accounted for 46% of cases with complete information on transmission status.

The ECDC report finds interpretation of hepatitis C notification data across countries remains problematic, with ongoing differences in surveillance systems and difficulties in defining reported cases as acute or chronic. With hepatitis C, a largely asymptomatic disease until its late stages, surveillance based on notification data is challenging, with data reflecting testing practices rather than true occurrence of disease.

Sources: ECDC, 22 July 2020 and ECDC, 22 July 2020