Prevalence and associated risk factors for hepatitis B and C viruses among refugee populations living in Mahama, Rwanda: A cross-sectional study

Oct 11, 2021; Plos one .


As part of the integration of refugees into Rwanda’s national hepatitis C elimination agenda, a mass screening campaign for hepatitis B (HBV) and hepatitis C (HCV) was conducted among Burundian refugees living in Mahama Camp, Eastern Rwanda. This cross-sectional survey used data from the screening campaign to report on the epidemiology of viral hepatitis in this setting.

Rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) were used to screen for hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) and hepatitis C antibody (anti-HCV) among people of ≥15years old. We calculated seroprevalence for HBsAg and anti-HCV by age and sex and also calculated age-and-sex adjusted risk ratios (ARR) for other possible risk factors.

Of the 26,498 screened refugees, 1,006 (3.8%) and 297 (1.1%) tested positive for HBsAg and Anti-HCV, respectively. HBsAg was more prevalent among men than women and most common among people 25–54 years old. Anti-HCV prevalence increased with age group with no difference between sexes. After adjusting for age and sex, having a household contact with HBsAg was associated with 1.59 times higher risk of having HBsAg (95% CI: 1.27, 1.99) and having a household contact with anti-HCV was associated with 3.66 times higher risk of Anti-HCV (95% CI: 2.26, 5.93). Self-reporting having HBV, HCV, liver disease, or previously screened for HBV and HCV were significantly associated with both HBsAg and anti-HCV, but RDT-confirmed HBsAg and anti-HCV statuses were not associated with each other. Other risk factors for HBsAg included diabetes (ARR = 1.97, 95% CI: 1.08, 3.59) and family history of hepatitis B (ARR = 1.32, 95% CI: 1.11, 1.56) and for anti-HCV included heart disease (ARR = 1.91, 95% CI: 1.30, 2.80) and history of surgery (ARR = 1.70, 95% CI: 1.24, 2.32).

Sero-prevalence and risks factors for hepatitis B and C among Burundian were comparable to that in the Rwandan general population. Contact tracing among household members of identified HBsAg and anti-HCV infected case may be an effective approach to targeted hepatitis screening given the high risk among self-reported cases. Expanded access to voluntary testing may be needed to improve access to hepatitis treatment and care in other refugee settings.

Other publication from the same publishing house