Viral hepatitis is a serious global public health problem affecting billions of people globally, and both hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections are rapidly spreading in the developing countries including Bangladesh due to the lack of health education, poverty, illiteracy and lack of hepatitis B vaccination. Also there is lack of information on their prevalence among the general population. So, a population-based serological survey was conducted in Dhaka to determine the prevalence and risk factors of HBV and HCV infections.
Healthy individuals were selected for demographic and behavioural characteristics by stratified cluster sampling and blood tested for hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg), antibody to HBV core antigen (anti-HBc), and anti-HCV antibodies (anti-HCV).
From June 2005-November 2006, 1997 participants were screened for HBsAg, anti-HBc and anti-HCV, 738 (37%) were males with mean (SD) age of 24 (14) years. HBV-seropositivity was documented in 582 (29%) participants: 14 (0.7%) were positive for HBsAg, 452 (22.6%) for anti-HBc and 116 (5.8%) for both HBsAg and anti-HBc. Four (0.2%) participants were positive for anti-HCV, and another five (0.3%) for both anti-HBc and anti-HCV. Ninety-six/246 (39%) family members residing at same households with HBsAg positive participants were also HBV-seropositive [74 (30.1%) for anti-HBc and 22 (8.9%) for both HBsAg and anti-HBc], which was significantly higher among family members (39%) than that of study participants (29%) (OR 1.56; p < 0.001). In bivariate analysis, HBV-seropositivity was significantly associated with married status (OR 2.27; p < 0.001), history of jaundice (OR 1.35; p = 0.009), surgical operations (OR 1.26; p = 0.04), needle-stick injuries (OR 2.09; p = 0.002), visiting unregistered health-care providers (OR 1.40; p = 0.008), receiving treatment for sexually transmitted diseases (STD) (OR 1.79; p = 0.001), animal bites (OR 1.73; p < 0.001); ear-nose-body piercing in females (OR 4.97; p < 0.001); circumcision (OR 3.21; p < 0.001), and visiting community barber for shaving in males (OR 3.77; p < 0.001). In logistic regression analysis, married status (OR 1.32; p = 0.04), surgical operations (OR 1.39; p = 0.02), animal bites (OR 1.43; p = 0.02), visiting unregistered health-care providers (OR 1.40; p = 0.01); and ear-nose-body piercing in females (OR 4.97; p < 0.001) were significantly associated with HBV-seropositivity.
The results indicate intermediate level of endemicity of HBV infection in Dhaka community, with much higher prevalence among family members of HBsAg positive individuals but low prevalence of HCV infections, clearly indicating need for universal hepatitis B vaccination. The use of disposable needles for ear-nose-body piercing need to be promoted through public awareness programmes as a preventive strategy.