Background: Hepatitis A vaccines have been highly effective in preventing hepatitis A. To investigate the epidemiology of hepatitis A in China after hepatitis A vaccine became available, we reviewed reported cases of hepatitis A and the use of hepatitis A vaccine in China during the period from 1990 through 2007.
Methods: Data from the National Notifiable Disease Reporting System from 1990 to 2007 and the Emergency Events Reporting System from 2004 to 2007 were reviewed and epidemiologic characteristics analyzed. Hepatitis A vaccine distribution between 1992 and 2007 was also reviewed.
Results: The incidence of hepatitis A has declined by 90% since 1990, from 56 to 5.9 per 105/year. Declines in age-specific incidence were seen in all age groups, most dramatically among children younger than 10 years. Disease incidence still varies substantially: poorer western provinces have had the highest incidences since 2000. In high-incidence provinces, children younger than 10 years continue to have a high disease incidence. Only 50% of cases were laboratory-confirmed, and only 3% occurred in reported local outbreaks. Over 156 million doses of hepatitis A vaccine have been distributed since 1992, and use has continued to increase since 2003.
Conclusions: Incidence of hepatitis A has decreased in all age groups, likely due to changing socioeconomic conditions and increasing hepatitis A vaccine use. Nevertheless, western populations remain at high risk, with transmission predominantly occurring among children. The epidemiology of hepatitis A transmission is not well understood. Improved surveillance with better laboratory confirmation is needed to monitor the impact of universal hepatitis A vaccination of young children; this strategy began to be implemented in 2008.
2009 by the Japan Epidemiological Association