A community-based seroepidemiological survey of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia was conducted in 1994 to inform on the transmission dynamics and control of hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection. Venous blood from 4736 individuals under 50 years of age from 1262 households, selected using stratified cluster-sampling, was screened for HBV markers using commercial ELISAs. HBsAg prevalence was 7% (95% CI 6–8), higher in males (9%; 7–10) than females (5%; 4–6). HBeAg prevalence in HBsAg positives was 23% (18–29), and less than 1% of women of childbearing age were HBeAg positive. Overall HBV seroprevalence (any marker), rose steadily with age to over 70% in 40–49 year olds, indicating significant childhood and adult transmission. Estimated instantaneous incidence was 3–4/100 susceptibles/year, higher in males than females in 0–4 year olds, and peaking in early childhood and young adults. The age at which 50% had evidence of infection was around 20 years, and the herd immunity threshold is approximated at 63–77%. Addis Ababa is of intermediate-high HBV endemicity, with negligible perinatal transmission. Our main findings are the identification of a significant difference between males and females in the age-acquisition of HBV infection, and marked differences between age groups in HBV incidence rates. These results should target future research studies of underlying risk factors. Furthermore, we generate a crude estimate of the level of coverage of HBV vaccine that would be required to eliminate the virus from the study population.
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