Chronic Hepatitis B in Canada
Recent developments in the treatment and prevention of hepatitis B virus (HBV) infections warrant revisiting important epidemiological questions, such as how prevalent is chronic HBV infection in Canada, in which Canadian subpopulations are HBV prevalence rates the highest, in what percentage of infected individuals is the virus actively replicating, and how many infected Canadians are candidates for antiviral therapy? Currently available data suggest the overall prevalence of HBV-infected individuals in the general population is approximately 2%, with 5% to 10% having serological evidence of previous HBV infection. In high risk groups, such as street-connected individuals, Aboriginals and immigrants from endemic areas, these rates of viral prevalence and serological evidence of previous HBV infection are approximately two to 10 and five to 10 times higher, respectively, than in the general population. Candidates for antiviral therapy range from less than 1% of infected Aboriginals to 15% to 30% of Asians with chronic HBV. From these data, it is clear that chronic HBV remains an important public health problem in this country. Hence, resources must be identified to enhance Canadians' awareness of HBV infection, maintain, if not expand, efforts to identify and implement safe and effective antiviral therapy for HBV-infected individuals, and continue programs for universal vaccination to prevent new HBV infections.