A major epidemic of hepatitis A virus (HAV), associated with intravenous drug abuser (IVDA) communities, was studied by molecular epidemiology using a 348 bp region of the VP1/2PA junction of the HAV genome. A total of 621 cases were notified during the 2-year epidemic, 492 of whom were IVDA. Serum samples, taken from 79 patients during the acute phase of infection, were selected for analysis of HAV RNA by reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and sequencing. A unique epidemic strain was detected among 49 cases thought to be associated with the epidemic, and among 10/30 patients with no apparent association to the epidemic. The other 20 HAV variants differed from the epidemic strain, and in several cases could be connected to the patient's destination of travel. These strains were mostly associated with smaller outbreaks that were soon eradicated. Our data indicate different dissemination routes of HAV, suggesting that needle sharing practises contribute to a wide spread of the virus in the IVDA communities. By early detection of an outbreak, by epidemic survey and sequence analysis, preventive measures can be applied, and thereby limit the epidemic at an early stage.