Hepatitis B and C

The prevalence of antibodies against hepatitis C virus (HCV) among IDUs is, in general, extremely high, although there is wide variation both within and between countries (130). Among samples of IDUs, prevalence rates of over 60 % in 2002–03 are reported from Belgium, Estonia, Greece, Italy, Poland, Portugal and Norway, while samples with prevalence under 40 % are reported from Belgium, the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Austria, Slovenia, Slovakia, Finland and the United Kingdom (Figure 16) (131).

Figure 16: National and local estimates of HCV prevalence among injecting drug users, 2002–2003

Prevalence data from young IDUs (aged under 25) are available from only a few countries and, in some cases, sample sizes are small. Where available, the highest prevalence among young IDUs in 2002–03 (over 40 %) is found in samples from Greece, Austria and Poland and the lowest prevalence (under 20 %) in samples from Hungary, Slovenia, Finland and the United Kingdom (132). Data on HCV prevalence among new injectors (injecting for less than two years) are even more limited but what information is available for 2002–03 shows that the highest prevalence (over 40 %) is in samples from Belgium and Poland and the lowest prevalence (under 20 %) in samples from the Czech Republic, Greece and Slovenia (133). Hepatitis C notification data for the period 1992–2003 suggest that, in those countries providing data, IDUs account for the large majority of notified cases of hepatitis C (notifications are mostly limited to diagnosed cases of acute infection) (Figure 17).

Figure 17 Notified cases of hepatitis C, percentage of cases reported as IDU, 1992–2003


(1) The data are not for the national level

A, acute cases; AC, acute and chronic cases; C, chronic cases.

Source: Reitox national focal points (2004).


The prevalence of hepatitis B virus (HBV) markers also varies greatly both within and between countries (134). The most complete data are for anti-HBc, which indicates a history of infection and, among those testing negative, the potential for vaccination. In 2002–03, IDU samples with prevalence over 60 % were reported from Belgium, Estonia and Italy, while samples with prevalence under 30 % were reported from Belgium, Spain, Italy, Austria, Portugal, Slovenia, Slovakia and the United Kingdom (135). Hepatitis B notification data for the period 1992–2003, for those countries from which data are available, suggest that the proportion of IDUs has been increasing (136). In the Nordic region, the great majority of notified acute cases of hepatitis B occur among IDUs, and hepatitis B outbreaks have coincided with increases in drug injecting in several countries (Blystad et al., 2005).

For a brief overview of other drug-related infectious diseases, see the 2004 annual report

(130) See Tables INF-2 and INF-11 in the 2005 statistical bulletin.

(131) See also Figure INF-21 in the 2005 statistical bulletin and Matheï et al., 2005.

(132) See Table INF-12 in the 2005 statistical bulletin.

(133)  See Table INF-13 and Figures INF-7 and INF-8 in the 2005 statistical bulletin.

(134)  See Tables INF-3, INF-14 and INF-15 in the 2005 statistical bulletin.

(135) See Figures INF-9, INF-10, INF-22 and INF-23 in the 2005 statistical bulletin.

(136) See Figure INF-14 in the 2005 statistical bulletin.