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Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology
Volume 17 (2003), Issue 12, Pages 707-712
Original Article

Viral Hepatitis in the Canadian Inuit and First Nations Populations

Gerald Y Minuk and J Uhanova

Section of Hepatology, Department of Medicine, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Copyright © 2003 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


OBJECTIVE: To review published prevalence data regarding hepatitis A (HAV), B (HBV) and C (HCV) in Canadian Inuit and First Nations populations.

METHODS: PubMed database search and review of all papers describing data derived from seroepidemiological surveys.

RESULTS: The prevalence of anti-HAV positivity in Canadian Inuit and First Nations populations reported to date is high (range 75% to 95%) and approximately three times that of non-Aboriginal Canadians residing in the same communities. Among the Canadian Inuit, the prevalence of HBV infection is approximately 5%, or 20 times that of non-Aboriginal Canadians, while the risk of exposure to HBV is 25%, or five times higher. Regarding the First Nations population, preliminary data suggest the prevalences of HBV infection (0.3% to 3%) and exposure (10% to 22%) are similar to rates in non-Aboriginals residing in the same regions and participating in similar high risk activities. Serological evidence of HCV infection (anti-HCV) is more common in the Canadian Inuit and First Nations (1% to 18%) than the remainder of the Canadian population (0.5% to 2%); however, viremia (HCV-RNA positivity) is less common (less than 5% versus 75% of anti-HCV positive individuals, respectively).

CONCLUSIONS: Viral hepatitis is common in the Canadian Inuit and First Nations populations. In the absence of coexisting human immunodeficiency virus infection and alcohol abuse, the outcomes of HBV and HCV appear to be more benign than in non-Aboriginal Canadians.