South London Specialist Virology Centre, King's College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK.
Healthcare workers (HCWs) are at significant risk of exposure to blood-borne viruses (BBV).
To investigate HCW perceptions concerning occupational exposures to BBV and possible barriers involved in reporting incidents.
A total of 120 HCWs based at the Dental Institute, King's College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, completed an anonymous questionnaire as part of a multicentre study.
Eighty-six percent (99/115) of respondents worried about developing a BBV infection at work. Of those who feared hepatitis C virus (HCV) the most, 69% (31/45) also believed that HCV posed the greatest risk to their health, versus 53% (10/19) and 13% (5/40) with regard to hepatitis B virus (HBV) and HIV infection, respectively (P < 0.001). Of respondents with ≥21 years of health service experience, 75% (18/24) knew the risk of HIV transmission versus 13% (2/16) of respondents with <5 years of health service experience (P = 0.002). All (23/23) respondents with ≥21 years of service were aware of HIV PEP versus 20% (12/60) with <21 years of service. Ninety-two percent of respondents (104/113) agreed that it was important to report all body fluid exposure incidents but only 58% (28/48) had reported all their exposure incidents. Fifty-nine percent (60/102) agreed that an electronic reporting system would improve reporting of such incidents.
This study identified a need to improve HCWs' knowledge of BBV infection risks and their management. Data gathered in this study will be used to inform the development of a web-based system for the surveillance of occupational exposures to BBV in the UK.