Illness due to the hepatitis B virus is an enormous problem for international public health, affecting over 300 million persons throughout the world, although its prevalence varies considerably between different geographic areas.
The universal vaccination of the newly born, promulgated by the World Health Organisation, has made it possible to partially control the spread of the virus in many countries, including Spain. However, the vaccine does not generate protective antibodies in approximately 5% of the population. Besides, infection by the hepatitis B virus can produce few symptoms and the virus is easily transmitted, making its epidemiological control difficult.
On the other hand, the growing flow of bi-directional migration of persons between geographical areas with a moderate or high prevalence and Spain also seems to be contributing to the persistence of the disease in our milieu. All of this makes it compulsory to deploy an ensemble of preventive measures based on an increasingly deep understanding of the biological cycle of the virus.
In Spain, as in other regions with a low prevalence, the hepatitis B virus infection is considered chiefly to be a disease of sexual transmission, or else contagion takes place between patients who are users of intravenous drugs. On the other hand, blood transmission is of scarce importance in our milieu. Following exposure to the hepatitis B virus, prophylaxis with immunoglobins and also the administration of the vaccine is highly effective, and acquires special interest for all healthcare workers.
CITATION An Sist Sanit Navar. 2004;27 Suppl 2:7-16
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