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Hepatitis C virus infection in health care workers referred to a hepatitis clinic

To assess method of acquisition, presence of liver disease, potential infectivity and the effect on work practices in health care workers with hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection referred to a hepatitis clinic.

All 33 health care workers referred to a hepatitis clinic for management of HCV infection because of a positive test for HCV (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) between 1 January 1990 and 31 December 1994 (comprising six medical practitioners, 18 nurses, two scientists and seven others) were retrospectively assessed for most likely method of infection, alanine aminotransferase levels, results of liver biopsy and measurement of HCV-RNA.

30 health care workers (12 men and 18 women; age range, 27-68 years) had HCV infection confirmed on further testing. Only seven were believed to have acquired their infection occupationally (one with documented needlestick injury). Twenty-eight patients had elevated alanine aminotransferase levels and, of 23 patients who underwent liver biopsy, one had cirrhosis and 12 had chronic hepatitis and fibrosis. Of the 24 health care workers with direct patient contact, four had retired, eight had stopped or modified their work practices and 12 continued to practise normally.

Few health care workers with chronic HCV infection have acquired it occupationally. We recommend that guidelines be set up for institutional expert committees to advise health care workers with HCV infection about modifying their work practice.

Source: Med J Aust; VOL 164, ISS 11, 1996, P656-8
Author: Cooksley WG
Abstract: Author
Address: Clinical Research Centre, Royal Brisbane Hospital Research Foundation, QLD.

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