60,000 patients at risk for Hepatitis B

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In the last decade, more than 60,000 patients in the United States were asked to get tested for hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) because healthcare personnel in settings outside hospitals failed to follow basic infection control practices, according to a new study by the CDC.

This first full review of all the CDC investigations over the past 10 years of healthcare-associated viral hepatitis outbreaks appears in the Jan. 6, 2009 issue of the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

“This report is a wake-up call,” said Dr. John Ward, director of CDC’s Division of Viral Hepatitis. “Thousands of patients are needlessly exposed to viral hepatitis and other preventable diseases in the very places where they should feel protected.  No patient should go to their doctor for healthcare only to leave with a life-threatening disease.”

In the United States, transmission of HBV and HCV while receiving healthcare has been considered uncommon. However, a review of CDC outbreak information revealed a total of 33 identified outbreaks outside of hospitals in 15 states, during the past decade: 12 in outpatient clinics, six in hemodialysis centers and 15 in long-term care facilities, resulting in 450 people acquiring HBV or HCV infection.

Patients were exposed to these potentially deadly diseases because health care personnel failed to follow basic infection control procedures and aseptic technique in injection safety. Reuse of syringes and blood-contamination of medications, equipment and devices were identified as common factors in these outbreaks.

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