Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B cells

Introduction

Hepatitis B is an infectious disease caused by the hepatitis B virus which is transmissible by blood and sexual contact, as well as from mother to child at birth (unlike hepatitis C, which is strongly associated with risky injecting behaviour). The virus affects the liver by attaching to healthy liver cells and replicating. If not diagnosed and managed appropriately, hepatitis B infection can lead to cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), liver cancer or liver failure.

During 2017, there was 6,102 new hepatitis B diagnoses in Australia, elevating the total number of people living with chronic hepatitis B to 248,536. An estimated 61% of these people were diagnosed. Australia’s Second National Hepatitis B Strategy (2014–2017) has a target to have 15% of people living with chronic hepatitis B on treatment, but only 8% of people living with chronic hepatitis B were estimated to be receiving antiviral therapy in 2017. An estimated 390 deaths attributable to chronic hepatitis B infection occurred in 2017. 

Over the past five years, the annual diagnosis rate of hepatitis B has declined by 13% in Australia. The hepatitis B diagnosis rate has also declined in younger age groups over the past five years, in contrast to stable rates in older age groups aged 30–39, and aged 40 and over. This reflects the impact of Australia’s infant and adolescent vaccination programs. In 2017, coverage of infant hepatitis B vaccination at 12 months of age was 95% in the non-Indigenous population and 93% in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population, reaching 96% and 98% respectively by 24 months.

The notification rate of hepatitis B among the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population based on data from five jurisdictions (the Australian Capital Territory, Northern Territory, South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia) declined by 37% between 2013 and 2017. 

 

You can explore the hepatitis B data from Australia in the interactive graphs below.

Scroll down to read the interpretation of the data and to download the full version of the report.

What's new in 2017?

What does this mean?

Most people living with chronic hepatitis B in Australia were born overseas and acquired hepatitis B at birth or in early childhood. Age-specific rates for hepatitis B suggest a decline in the age groups (under 30 years) that are most likely to have benefited from the introduction of universal vaccination of infants in 2000 (1990 in the Northern Territory). Maternal screening and vaccination of infants born to women with hepatitis B are also likely to have contributed to this decline.

Overall, of the people living with chronic hepatitis B in Australia in 2017, an estimated 39% remained undiagnosed. Of the people living with chronic hepatitis B, an estimated 17% were receiving care and 8% were receiving treatment. These data suggest a major gap in both the uptake of testing to diagnose chronic hepatitis B, and the uptake of monitoring and treatment to prevent morbidity and mortality, and there is a need to strengthen strategies to bridge these gaps.

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