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Belgium is a low-endemic country for hepatitis B. Universal hepatitis B vaccination in infants with catch-up in the age cohort of 10–13 year-olds began in 1999.


Our objective was to evaluate the effect of prevention and control strategies on acute hepatitis B notification rates in Flanders (Belgium) from 2009 to 2017.


This observational study collected demographic data and risk factors for acute hepatitis B from mandatory notifications to the Agency for Care and Health.


In Flanders, acute hepatitis B notification rates per 100,000 population decreased from 1.6 in 2009 to 0.7 in 2017. These rates declined in all age groups: 0–4-year-olds: 0.6 to 0.0, 5–14-year-olds: 0.2 to 0.0, 15–24-year-olds: 0.8 to 0.7, 25–34-year-olds: 3.4 to 1.1 and ≥ 35-year-olds: 1.59 to 0.7. There was also a downward trend in acute hepatitis B notification rates in native Belgians and first-generation migrants. Among 15–24-year-olds and 25–34-year-olds, a possible reversal of the decreasing trend was observed in 2016 and 2015, respectively. Among 548 acute hepatitis B cases, the main route of transmission was sexual activity (30.7%), and the pattern of transmission routes over time showed an increasing proportion of sexual transmission in men who have sex with men (MSM) after 2014. During the period from 2009 to 2017, five mother-to-child transmissions were reported.


Prevention and control strategies were effective in reducing the acute hepatitis B notification rate. However, stronger prevention and control measures are needed in adult risk groups, particularly MSM.


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