Hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) are major causes of acute and chronic liver disease worldwide. Chronic infection with these viruses often leads to chronic liver disease, including cirrhosis or primary hepatocellular carcinoma. Both HBV and HCV are bloodborne viruses; however, HBV is transmitted efficiently by both percutaneous and mucosal exposures, and HCV is transmitted predominantly by percutaneous exposures. Because the relative importance of various modes of transmission of these viruses differs by country, the choice of specific prevention and control strategies depends primarily on the epidemiology of infection in a particular country. Comprehensive hepatitis B prevention strategies should include (1) prevention of perinatal HBV transmission, (2) hepatitis B vaccination at critical ages to interrupt transmission and (3) prevention of nosocomial HBV transmission. The prevention of hepatitis C is problematic because a vaccine to prevent HCV infection is not expected to be developed in the foreseeable future. From a global perspective, the greatest impact on the disease burden associated with HCV infection will most likely be achieved by focusing efforts on primary prevention strategies to reduce or eliminate the risk for transmission from nosocomial exposures (e.g. blood transfusion, unsafe injection practices) and high-risk practices (e.g. injecting drug use).