Korean J Intern Med.  2019 Sep;34(5):945-953. 10.3904/kjim.2019.007.

The epidemiology of hepatitis B virus infection in Korea

Affiliations
  • 1Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Department of Internal Medicine, Korea University Medical Center, Seoul, Korea. kjhhepar@korea.ac.kr

Abstract

The global burden of hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection is profound, and represents a public health threat as chronic infection can lead to liver cirrhosis, hepatocellular carcinoma, and death. The risk factors for chronic hepatitis B-related liver disease differ according to HBV endemicity, hepatitis B e-antigen seropositivity, and viral load. It is important to identify these risk factors and start antiviral treatment at an appropriate time according to current guidelines. The most crucial step in reducing HBV infection is prevention in infancy or early childhood, as infection at an early stage may lead to chronicity. South Korea was formerly an HBV-endemic area, but the epidemiology of HBV infection was changed by the introduction of vaccination in 1983 and nationwide immunization in 1995. The government and the private sector made efforts to reduce the prevalence of HBV infection, and Korea is on target to meet the World Health Organization goal of eliminating viral hepatitis by 2030. To eliminate hepatitis worldwide, the costs of antiviral treatment to prevent perinatal HBV transmission in pregnant women with high viremia should be covered by a national program, and strategies to reduce the prevalence of HBV infection in immigrant populations are needed.

Keyword

Hepatitis B, chronic; Vaccination; Epidemiology
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