Diagnosis

There is a vaccine against hepatitis A and hepatitis B, but there is no vaccine against hepatitis C. Screening for HBV and HCV is recommended for certain at-risk individuals.

How can hepatitis be diagnosed?

The symptoms of the different types of hepatitis are relatively similar. That is why if there is any suspicion, it is important to carry out a blood test.

A blood test will show if there are (IgM and IgG specific) antibodies a sign that the body is responding to an infection.

Blood tests also make it possible to differentiate between acute hepatitis and chronic hepatitis

DID YOU KNOW? In Belgium all blood products have been systematically screened for the hepatitis C virus since 1990. There has therefore been no risk of transmission from blood transfusions since that time. Blood products and pregnant women are also screened for HBV systematically.

Screening

Screening for hepatitis B is recommended:

  • for pregnant women
  • for donors (blood, organ, plasma, sperm) 
  • for sexual partners and household members of HBV-infected people
  • for people who come from a country where hepatitis B is endemic (> 2% prevalence) 
  • for people living with HIV 
  • for people with hepatitis C
  • for men who have sex with men (MSM)
  • for people who take drugs intravenously
  • for non-vaccinated children whose parents come from a country where hepatitis B is endemic (> 2% prevalence).

Screening for hepatitis C is recommended:

  • for people who have or who could have received blood products prior to 1990
  • for people on dialysis
  • for people who take drugs intravenously
  • for children born to a mother with HCV
  • for sexual partners and household members of HCV-infected people
  • for people who have had tattoos, piercings or acupuncture without using sterilized and single-use equipment
  • for people who have received medical treatment in countries where HCV is endemic
  • for people living with HIV or HBV
  • for people showing symptoms of hepatitis (loss of appetite, jaundice, etc.). 

In conjunction with the Laboratoire Clinique de Saint-Luc (Saint Luc Clinical Laboratory) — UCL Brussels, Sciensano hosts the National Reference Centre for the hepatitis B, C, D, and E viruses, which analyses the viral strains of hepatitis. Sciensano also carries out epidemiological surveillance of the different types of viral hepatitis in Belgium and monitors the quality of the vaccines.

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