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Int J Infect Dis. 2001;5(4):209-13.

Prevalence of hepatitis virus infections in Kosovar refugees.

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  • 1Department of Internal Medicine and Public Health, Hygiene Section, University of Bari, Bari, Italy.



To assess the prevalence of viral hepatitis infections in a sample of Kosovar refugees having arrived in southern Italy as a result of the 1999 war in the Balkans.


The 526 subjects who enrolled on voluntary basis from all age groups were tested for the prevalence of serologic markers for hepatitis virus types A, B, C, D, and E (HAV, HBV, HCV, HDV, HEV).


Among the 526 refugees, the prevalence of total anti-HAV antibodies was 81%. A relevant finding was the presence of total anti-HAV antibodies in 61% of the children up to 10 years of age. The prevalence of anti-HEV antibodies was 2.5% among the subjects. Fifteen subjects (2.9%) were positive for hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg), whereas 17.5% tested positive for anti-hepatitis B core antigen (anti-HBc). In children up to 10 years of age, the prevalence of HBsAg and anti-HBc was found to be 0.4% and 6%, respectively. In subjects aged 11 to 20 years, 4.2% tested positive for HBsAg and 20.2% for anti-HBc. In the age group 21 to 30 years, 7.1% of the subjects were found to be HBsAg carriers, whereas 25.9% were found to be positive for anti-HBc. Among the refugees over 30 years of age, the prevalence of HBsAg was 4.2%, whereas anti-HBc was 43.7%. None of the refugees tested positive for anti-HDV. The prevalence of anti-HCV antibodies was 0.7%.


The results of this seroepidemiologic study indicate a high circulation of HAV in the Kosovar population, whereas the prevalence of HEV antibodies was low and comparable to that of other European countries. The HBV infection seems to be at an intermediate level of endemicity and an immunization policy against HBV infection, through vaccination of all newborns and children before adolescence, may be advisable. Results of this study indicate that the level of endemicity of HCV infection in the Kosovar population is low.

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