Open Access Research article

Trends of Hepatitis A hospitalization and risk factors in Quebec, Canada, between 1990 and 2003

Magalie Canuel12, Gaston De Serres123*, Bernard Duval123, Rodica Gilca123, Philippe De Wals123 and Vladimir Gilca23

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, Laval University, Quebec, Canada

2 Quebec National Institute of Public Health, Quebec, Canada

3 CHUL Research Center, CHUQ-CHUL, Quebec, Canada

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BMC Infectious Diseases 2007, 7:31  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-7-31

Published: 18 April 2007



In Canada, targeted vaccination of at risk groups for hepatitis A (HA) is done since the mid 1990s resulting in declining incidence. This study estimated the year and age specific hospitalization rates and distribution of risk factors for HA in Quebec, Canada, between 1990 and 2003.


Records of patients hospitalized with HA-related diagnostic codes were retrieved from the provincial database. Hospital charts of all deceased cases and a random sample of all other records were reviewed.


From 1503 hospitalization records, 573 charts were reviewed including 49 (91%) of the 54 deceased patients. Confirmed acute HA was present in 79% of records where HA was the primary diagnosis, and in 3%–8% of records where HA was a secondary diagnosis. From the total estimated number of hospitalizations, 96% had HA as the primary diagnosis. The hospitalization rate decreased from 1.06 per 100 000 person-years between 1990 and 1997 to 0.36 between 1998 and 2003. During the study period, 54% HA hospitalizations were in 20–39 year-olds. The overall case fatality ratio among hospitalized patients was 1.4%, increasing from 0.4% in those < 40 years old to 12.5% in those ≥60 years. By decreasing order, reported risk factors were travel to HA endemic countries (30%), MSM (18%) and household contacts (11%).


HA hospitalization rates have been low since 1998 but the cause of this is unclear given the cyclical pattern of HA. Travel to endemic countries remains the most important risk factor and improved control of HA will require better strategies to vaccinate travelers.