Prevention

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.

Vaccines

The vaccine against the hepatitis B virus is recommended in Belgium. It is given to infants (4 doses) with a possible booster in adolescence. The vaccine against hepatitis B also protects against hepatitis D.

The vaccine against the hepatitis A virus is only recommended for people visiting endemic regions.

There is no vaccine against the hepatitis C virus. Prevention of infection by HCV therefore implies reducing the risk of exposure to the virus (preventative measures when injecting drugs and during sexual relations).

A vaccine against hepatitis E has been approved in China but it is not registered for the European market.

Screening

During a blood transfusion or blood donation, the donor's blood is always screened for the hepatitis B and C virus.

HBV screening is also offered to pregnant women systematically. 

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 healthcare professionals
  • 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 or 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.).

DID YOU KNOW? Hepatitis B and C can be transmitted during sexual relations without a condom (especially HBV) and when taking intravenous drugs (especially HCV). The prevention of hepatitis B and C therefore also requires the use of a condom and clean equipment when injecting or snorting drugs (needle and syringe exchange programmes in french and dutch and opioid substitution therapy).

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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