Seroprevalence and risk factors of hepatitis B and C virus infections in female workers of Lao garment factories.
- Clinical and Applied Virology
The prevalence of hepatitis B and C virus infections may be higher in vulnerable populations or in individuals likely to be exposed through risk behaviors such as female garment factory workers in Lao People's Democratic Republic. A cross-sectional study was performed on 400 female garment workers in Vientiane Capital. Women were tested for hepatitis B virus surface antigen and antibodies against hepatitis B core, surface antigen and hepatitis C virus using commercial Enzyme-linked immuno-absorbent assays. Participants completed a standardized questionnaire about potential risk factors for both infections. Sixteen women (4+/-1.9%) were HBsAg carriers, 187 (47%) had anti-HBc, 116 (29%) anti-HBs and 7 (1.8+/-1.3%) anti-HCV antibodies. Three factors were significantly associated with the presence of anti-HBc (indicating previous exposure to HBV): (i) residence in dormitories, (ii) more than one sexual partner, (iii) history of abortion. Despite a high risk of exposure, the prevalence of anti HBV and anti HCV infection markers in this sample of female workers was not higher than in the Lao general population. Our data suggest that exposure to HBV happens later during life and was significantly associated with sexual risk behavior. Thus, this study highlights the vulnerability of these women who were mostly young, uneducated, unvaccinated, of rural origin and were not aware of the risk of infections. An occupational health program targeting the female factory workers should be implemented in Lao PDR.