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Revista Brasileira de Epidemiologia

Print version ISSN 1415-790X

Abstract

FERREIRA, Cristina Targa  and  SILVEIRA, Themis Reverbel da. Viral Hepatitis: epidemiological and preventive aspects. Rev. bras. epidemiol. [online]. 2004, vol.7, n.4, pp. 473-487. ISSN 1415-790X.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S1415-790X2004000400010.

Viral hepatitis is a disease caused by different etiological agents with universal distribution and that have hepatotropism as a common characteristic. They are similar from a clinical-laboratorial point-of-view, but present significant differences in their epidemiology and outcome. The past few decades have brought remarkable victories in relation to the prevention and control of viral hepatitis. Viral hepatitis is very important among the endemic-epidemic diseases that are major public health problems in Brazil, and its epidemiological behavior has undergone major changes over the past few years, both in our country and worldwide. The expansion of substantial improvement in sanitary conditions, the increase in the coverage of hepatitis B vaccination, and the new molecular diagnostic assays of Hepatitis C virus were all decisive factors that contributed to these changes. Various important conditions in our country (socio-economic heterogeneity, irregular distribution of health services, unequal incorporation of advanced techniques for diagnosis and treatment of diseases) must be taken into account when assessing the endemic-epidemic process of viral hepatitis. The number of infected patients is uncertain, especially in some Brazilian states and cities, and the elucidation of the causal agents of hepatitis, whose identification requires complex molecular biology laboratory techniques, is insufficiently performed. On the other hand, "the progressive integration of agencies that manage disease surveillance and control programs and research groups, and between the latter and services," and the availability of more reliable national databases, suggest new and better possibilities. In the present paper, we have briefly reviewed hepatitis A, B and C, the most frequent forms in our country, and the epidemiology and the preferred strategies for preventing this disease.

Keywords : Viral hepatitis; Epidemiology; Hepatitis A; Hepatitis B; Hepatitis C; Prevention.

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