McMahon BJ, Alward WL, Hall DB, Heyward WL, Bender TR, Francis DP, Maynard JE
Yupik Eskimos of southwestern Alaska have the highest known prevalence of hepatitis B virus infection of any general population in the United States. Prospective serological surveys of 1,280 seronegative Yupik Eskimos, performed between 1971 and 1976, identified 189 (14.8%) who developed serological evidence of hepatitis B virus infection. Twenty-six (13.8%) developed clinical hepatitis during the interval when seroconversion occurred. The proportion of patients with clinically apparent hepatitis increased with age (P less than .01), ranging from 9.5% of infections in patients who were four years of age or less to 33.3% of infections in patients who were 30 years of age or older. Twenty-five (13.3%) of the 188 individuals who were studied became chronic carriers of hepatitis B surface antigen. The risk of becoming a carrier was inversely related to the age of the patient at the time of infection (P = .02). Among patients who were four years of age or less when infected, 28.8% became chronic carriers of hepatitis B, as compared with 7.7% of those who were 30 years of age or older.