The national notification data from 1952 to 1997 was examined in order to characterise hepatitis A virus (HAV) infection in Australia in the 1990s, and to determine whether currently available surveillance data are sufficient to inform disease control strategies and vaccination policies. Hepatitis A annual notification rates declined dramatically from a high of 123 notifications per 100,000 persons in 1961, to 3 per 100,000 in 1989. During 1991-97, the hepatitis A notification rate was 12 per 100,000 persons per year, although rates varied substantially between States and Territories. The Northern Territory had the highest notification rate of 52 per 100,000 persons per year. Seventy-six per cent of cases were adults, although in most regions notification rates were significantly higher in children than adults. Nationally, the male to female ratio was 1.7:1 (p < 0.001). The Northern Territory was the only area with no significant difference in notifications between the sexes. Large outbreaks were detectable through the notification system but risk factors for transmission could only be inferred from age and sex distribution of notifications, and from previous outbreak reports. National hepatitis A surveillance would be improved by collecting basic risk factor data, which identify cases as food-borne, sporadic, related to another case, or travel related. In addition, a population based serosurvey to measure age-specific hepatitis A susceptibility would assist vaccination policy development. Serosurveillance data are also needed, in conjunction with enhancements of the notification data, to provide baseline information against which the impact of changes in vaccination policy can be assessed.
|Number of pages||8|
|Journal||Communicable Diseases Intelligence|
|Publication status||Published - 1999|