Background: Since little is known about the burden of viral hepatitis in Kurds, the prevalence of infection with hepatitis A virus (HAV), hepatitis E virus (HEV), hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) was investigated in a sample of refugee Kurds from Iraq and Turkey.
Patients and methods: A cross-sectional study was carried out. Serological markers to hepatitis viruses were determined for 1,005 subjects from all age-groups of which 36.6% were from Turkey and 63.4% from Iraq.
Results: Overall seroprevalence for anti-HAV was 94.4% and 14.8% for anti-HEV. A significantly higher prevalence for anti-HEV was found among Iraqis (17.5%) compared to Turkish immigrants (10.0%). The prevalence of hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) and total anti-HBc (core) was 6.8% and 35.6% in Turkish Kurds and 2.2% and 12.7% in Iraqis, respectively. Only 10% of children aged up to 10 years and 2.8% of subjects aged 11-20 years had been vaccinated against HBV, the majority of them coming from Iraq. One subject was confirmed as positive for anti-HCV (0.1%) and HCV-RNA and analysis showed a 4c/4d genotype.
Conclusion: This survey shows a high prevalence of enterically transmitted viral hepatitis in Kurds. HBV infection is moderately endemic, while the prevalence of HCV infection is low. There is a need for a universal immunization strategy for HBV in the Kurd population.