Source HIV & STIs Department, Health Protection Services - Colindale, Health Protection Agency, London Department of Public Health, City University, London Statistics, Modelling and Bioinformatics Department, Health Protection Services - Colindale, Health Protection Agency, London Health Protection Scotland, Glasgow Health and Work Centre, Royal Free Hampstead NHS Trust, London, UK.
The study aims were to describe a case series of occupationally acquired hepatitis C (HCV) infections in UK healthcare workers and examine factors associated with transmission using exposure data reported to the Health Protection Agency between July 1997 and December 2007. Fifteen reported cases of documented HCV seroconversion occurred after percutaneous exposure, the majority from hollow-bore needles used in the source patient's vein or artery and contaminated with blood or blood-stained fluid.
The seroconversion rate was 2.2% (14/626). In multivariable analysis of healthcare workers with percutaneous exposure to blood or blood-stained fluid, we demonstrate that blood sampling procedures (odds ratio [OR], 5.75; 95% CI, 1.33-24.91; P = 0.01) and depth of injury (OR for deep vs superficial injury, 21.99; 95% CI, 2.02-239.61; P = 0.02) are independently associated with a greater risk of HCV seroconversion. This is the first UK study of occupationally acquired HCV in healthcare workers. It has reinforced our knowledge of risk factors for HCV transmission.
Most of these exposures and transmissions were preventable. Healthcare employers should provide regular education on the risks of occupational exposure and prevention through standard infection control procedures. They should ensure the availability of effective prevention measures and facilitate prompt reporting and adequate follow-up of exposures.