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.
What does Sciensano do?
Sciensano groups together a number of different activities regarding viral hepatitis:
Biological standards laboratory
Sciensano hosts the Biological standardisation laboratory which monitors the quality of vaccines against hepatitis A and B before their release onto the Belgian and European market (European Economic Area).
National reference centre for hepatitis B, C, D and E viruses
- monitors the presence of hepatitis A, B, C, D and E in Belgium, particularly on behalf of the Belgian and international health authorities such as the ECDC and the WHO
- has developed a saliva screening test for HAV, HBV and HCV within the framework of studies on prevalence
- diagnosis of the hepatitis D and E viruses in Belgium
- monitors the specifics of different strains of the hepatitis A, B, C, D and E viruses (according to the strain of the virus, the medical community can know how many patients are likely to react positively to a type of proposed treatment)
- monitors viruses' resistance to antiviral treatments.
Sciensano also coordinates an external network of medical analysis laboratories that transfers data each week on the number of positive cases detected for the hepatitis A, B, C and E viruses. The analysis of this data makes it possible to monitor trends that are very useful for the health authorities.
Sciensano has equally participated actively in the National Control Plan for hepatitis C by developing a system for the surveillance of new cases diagnosed, as well as longitudinal monitoring, (that is to say monitoring infected patients over time).
Lastly, scientists and researchers for Sciensano are currently conducting a study on the emergence of hepatitis E in Belgium. They are trying to identify the potential sources of contamination for people in Belgium, such as food (insufficiently cooked pork, etc.), pig farms, domestic animals, etc.
Sciensano's Drugs Programme monitors information related to drug addicts that take drugs using injections. This section of the population has an increased risk of contracting hepatitis C, mainly brought about by sharing syringes.