Objective: To record and update the sero-epidemiological status of Hepatitis A virus in Eastern Saudi Arabia. To investigate the main viral etiology of clinical hepatitis in children and discuss the possibility of introducing a Hepatitis A virus vaccine in this Province.
Methods: Examining serum specimens by Enzyme Linkage Immuno-Sorbet Assay technique for these parameters: Immunoglobulin M anti-hepatitis A virus, total immunoglobulin anti-hepatitis A virus, and in selected cases we checked for hepatitis B surface antigen and anti-hepatitis C virus. The study was carried out in the Virology Diagnostic Labs, of Dammam Regional Laboratories & Blood Bank, Dammam. A total of 12,357 serum samples were collected from 5876 healthy children, 5798 healthy adults, and 683 from clinically diagnosed hepatitis in children. The period of study was 12 years from February 1987 to January 1999.
Results: Hepatitis A virus prevalence showed 3% for pre-school age, 80% in older children and 93% in adults, while total prevalence was 86%. Breaking down the prevalence among children showed 3% in the <6 years age group, 62% in the 6 - <8 years age group, 71% in the 8 - <10 years age group, 83% in the 10 - <12 years age group and 93% in the 12 - <18 years age group. While the grand total among children was 78%. The prevalence of hepatitis viruses causing clinical hepatitis in children showed: 65% for hepatis A virus, 21% for hepatitis B virus, 7% for hepatitis C virus, 2% for double infection of hepatitis B virus + hepatitis C virus and 5% for non A, non B, non C.
Conclusion: Hepatitis A virus infection starts dramatically high in school-age children, and then rises gradually with an increase in age. This reflects that our region is of pattern I class. There is no difference in the prevalence due to seasons of year, climate or sex. Hepatitis A virus is the leading cause of clinical hepatitis in children, followed by hepatitis B virus and hepatitis C virus. There is a possibility of starting to introduce hepatitis A virus vaccine among pre-school age children, as well as among hepatitis A virus negative adults that live in a higher socioeconomic environment within the country, which can be considered as islands of pattern II among pattern I areas.