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Ann Acad Med Singapore. 1997 Sep;26(5):671-81.

Prevention and control of hepatitis B virus infection in Singapore.

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Quarantine & Epidemiology Department, Institute of Environmental Epidemiology, Singapore.


Hepatitis B virus (HBV) accounted for 24% to 54% of the reported acute viral hepatitis cases in Singapore from 1982 to 1996. The prevalence of HBV infection, as indicated by the presence of markers of HBV, increased from 9.3% in children below 5 years of age to 54.6% in adults above 55 years. The overall hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) prevalence was 5.7% for males and 3.4% for females, with the highest rate among the Chinese. About 39% of the HBsAg carriers were hepatitis B 'e' antigen positive. The main mode of transmission during the first year of life was perinatal, with 43% of the babies born to HBsAg-positive mothers developing the carrier state. Horizontal transmission within the infected household was significantly associated with sharing of personal and household articles. Based on the findings of seroprevalence surveys in various population groups and clinical trials on the safety, immunogenicity and efficacy of various doses and schedules with the plasma-based and yeast-derived hepatitis B vaccines in newborn babies, a national childhood hepatitis B vaccination programme was formulated and implemented in phases, starting with babies born to carrier mothers on 1 October 1985 and finally extending to all newborns on 1 September 1987. The hepatitis B prevention and control programme has been successful. During the period 1994 to 1996, more than 90% of children completed the full schedule of immunisation by below one year of age, and 85% had evidence of vaccination at school entry at age six. Follow-up of 2 cohorts of vaccinated children showed that perinatal transmission has been reduced by 80% to 100%. Horizontal transmission has also declined through other public health measures. The efficacy of the hepatitis B vaccine and the adequacy of reduced doses in the long-term protection of chronic carrier state have been shown in children and adults. The incidence of acute hepatitis B has declined from 10.4 per 100,000 in 1985 to 4.8 per 100,000 in 1996. There is a noticeable reduction in HBsAg prevalence in selected population (school children, national servicemen and antenatal women). The age-standardised incidence rate of primary liver cancer among males had also dropped from 27.8 per 100,000 per year during 1978 to 1982 to 19.0 per 100,000 per year during 1988 to 1992.

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