Epidemiologic features of hepatitis B virus infection in northern Labrador.
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We studied the epidemiologic features of hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection in northern Labrador to determine the prevalence of the infection and to obtain a database to develop a vaccination strategy. The study population included seven communities in which five ethnic groups were represented: Inuit, Innu, mixed Inuit and European ancestry ("settler"), nonnative/nonsettler transient population ("white") and people of Innu-white or Innu-Inuit origin ("mixed"). Blood samples from 2156 people (62% of the area residents) were tested for antibody to HBV core antigen (anti-HBc), HBV surface antigen (HBsAg), HBV e antigen (HBeAg), anti-HBc IgM and antibody to the surface antigen (anti-HBs). The overall crude prevalence rate of HBV seromarkers was 14.7% and the HBsAg carrier rate at least 3.2%; the rates were highest for Inuit (26.4% and 6.9% respectively), followed by settler (10.0% and 1.9% respectively) and Innu (7.6% and 0.4% respectively); the white and mixed groups had the lowest overall rates (2.5% and 3.3% respectively). Although the overall prevalence rates were about the same for the two sexes, the HBsAg carrier rate was higher in males (male:female ratio 1.6:1.0). No HBV carriers were positive for HBeAg or anti-HBc IgM antibody. The rate of exposure to HBV was 4% for those below the age of 20 years and reached a peak for those aged 45 to 54 years (85% for Inuit, 40% for settlers and 37% for Innu). There was also a wide variation in the age-standardized prevalence rates (0% to 27.9%) among the ethnic groups in the seven communities surveyed.
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