Objective: To determine the prevalence of hepatitis A, B, and C markers in children who were attending junior and senior high schools in a high risk area in rural Crete, Greece.
Methods: Three-hundred and thirty-four children who attended the three junior schools and one senior high school in the Agios Vassilios province of Southern Crete were invited to participate in the study. Three hundred and four of them were tested for hepatitis A, B, and C markers. Hepatitis B (HBV) markers (HBsAg and anti-HBc) as well as hepatitis A (anti-HAV) and hepatitis (anti-HCV) antibodies were tested with commercial enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay kits.
Results: Six of the 304 children (1.97%) were found to be positive for anti-HAV, 1 (0.33%) to HBsAg, 7 (2.30%) to anti-HBc and none were found positive for anti-HCV. No significant differences were seen between the prevalence of anti-HAV antibodies in males (2%) and females (1.95%), and of anti-HBc antibodies in males (3.33%) and females (1.30%).
Conclusions: The very low prevalence of anti-HAV is obviously due to the improved conditions of hygiene and it raises the question of the possible emergence of this disease at an older age and therefore appropriate preventative strategies should be considered. The low endemicity of hepatitis B in Crete in contrast to other areas of Greece also calls for a vaccination policy probably during adolescence. The absence of hepatitis C markers in the children in contrast to the observed higher prevalence of HCV-infected people in the adult population in the same rural area raises questions regarding possible sources of transmission of hepatitis C during the preceding years.