Background In Austria, being an area of low hepatitis A endemicity, every year, several cases of this infectious disease are reported. The aim of the present study was to provide data on disease and hospitalization of children below the age of 15 for imported and autochthonous hepatitis A in Austria.

Methods Nationwide, active, hospital-based surveillance during the period 1998 to 2005.

Results During this 8-year observation period, 413 children below 15 years of age were hospitalized with acute hepatitis due to infection with hepatitis A . The mean annual incidence of hospitalization per 100,000 population was 3.8, with a decreasing trend from 1998 to 2005. The mean length of hospital stay attributable to hepatitis A was 6.5 days. The mean annual number of days of hospitalization attributable to acute hepatitis A infection in children below 15 years of age was 335 days. Information on origin of infection was available in 48% of the reports, the majority of which (69%) were in consequence of infection import. The mean annual incidence of travel-associated, hospitalized hepatitis A cases was 1.3 per 100,000, showing a lesser decrease rate over the observation period than the total hospitalization incidence.

Conclusions In an area of low hepatitis A endemicity such as Austria, hospitalization incidence of children is still at a considerable level. Our findings contribute to an open discussion about universal childhood vaccination.