The Prevalence of Hepatitis A, B and C Infection among Different Ethnic Groups in Belize

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  • Division of Tropical Public Health, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Epidemiologic Research Center, Bethesda, Maryland, Belize
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Little is known about the prevalence of infection with hepatitis viruses in Belize, Central America. We conducted a serologic survey among members of the Belize Defence Force (BDF), which is composed of the five major ethnic groups in Belize, to estimate prevalence rates of hepatitis A, B, and C among military-aged men and women in Belize. Of approximately 600 men and women in the BDF, 492 (82%) completed a questionnaire and blood collection. Antibody to hepatitis A was found in 94%, with similar rates by age, sex, rank, and ethnicity. Antibody to hepatitis B core antigen (anti-HBc) was found in 31%. Rates of anti-HBc varied significantly among the ethnic groups with the lowest rates in Mestizo (5%) and Mayan Indians (9%), and significantly higher rates among Creoles (30%) and Garifuna (56%). Rates increased with increasing age from 28% in those 18–24 years old to 35% in those ≥ 35 years old (P = 0.07, by chi-square test for trend). Hepatitis B surface antigen was found in 21 (4%) overall. Antibody to hepatitis C was found in two (0.4%). In this young healthy population, exposure to hepatitis A before the age of 18 is almost universal, while exposure to hepatitis B is related to age and ethnic origin.

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