Since 1969, extensive use of immune serum globulin in the Israel Defence Force for prophylaxis against hepatitis A virus (HAV) infection has produced a sharp decline in the incidence of the disease. However, it is not clear whether this policy has affected the susceptibility of Israeli adults to HAV infection. In this study, we examined the effect of the immunisation policy on the incidence of hepatitis A virus infection in the civilian population in the 15-44 year age group, which includes all those who have completed compulsory military service since vaccination was introduced. The incidence of viral hepatitis in the Jewish civilian population aged 15-44 increased by approximately 50% 3-4 years after the implementation of the immunisation policy. This rise was not seen in the non-Jewish population of the same age nor among Jews aged 45-64. These findings strongly suggest that the immunisation policy in the military prevents both clinical and sub-clinical disease, but has had the effect of producing more susceptible people at an older age in the civilian population.
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