Adherence to the screening program for HBV infection in pregnant women delivering in Greece
Background: Hepatitis B infection (HBV) is a major Public Health Problem. Perinatal transmission can be prevented with the identification of HBsAg(+) women and administration of immunoprophylaxis to their newborns. A national prevention programme for HBV with universal screening of pregnant women and vaccination of infants is in effect since 1998 in Greece. Methods: To evaluate adherence to the national guidelines, all women delivering in Greece between 17-30/03/03 were included in the study. Trained health professionals completed a questionnaire on demographic data, prenatal or perinatal screening for HBsAg and the implementation of appropriate immunoprophylaxis. Results: During the study period 3,760 women delivered. Prenatal screening for HBsAg was documented in 91.3%. Greek women were more likely to have had prenatal testing. HBsAg prevalence was 2.89% (95% CI 2.3 - 3.4%). Higher prevalence of HBV-infection was noted in immigrant women, especially those born in Albania (9.8%). Other risk factors associated with maternal HBsAg (+) included young maternal age and absence of prenatal testing. No prenatal or perinatal HBsAg testing was performed in 3.2% women. Delivering in public hospital and illiteracy were identifiable risk factors for never being tested. All newborns of identified HBsAg (+) mothers received appropriate immunoprophylaxis. Conclusion: The prevalence of HBsAg in Greek pregnant women is low and comparable to other European countries. However, immigrant women composing almost 20% of our childbearing population, have significant higher prevalence rates. There are still women who never get tested. Universal vaccination against HBV at birth and reinforcement of perinatal testing of all women not prenatally tested should be discussed with Public Health Authorities.