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To determine the incidence of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection among healthcare workers (HCWs) at a university hospital, the proportion of HCWs having non-A, non-B hepatitis (NANBH) who were anti-HCV positive, and the rate of HCV transmission following a HCV-positive needlestick injury.
Longitudinal analysis of a dynamic (cohort) population.
From 1980 through 1989, HCWs who had clinical NANBH were identified, and from 1987 through 1989, HCWs who reported a blood or body fluid exposure and the patients who were the source of the exposure were screened for antibodies to HCV.
A 732-bed, university hospital and outpatient clinics.
Over the 10-year period, six cases of occupationally acquired NANBH were observed, for an incidence of 21 cases per 100,000 HCWs per year (standardized incidence ratio, 2.96; 95% confidence interval [CI95], 1.83 to 4.36). Four of the six cases were confirmed to be HCV infection. From 1987 through 1989, 176 (12.7%) of 1,387 patients who were the source of an exposure were anti-HCV positive. Exposures that occurred in the emergency department were more likely to be anti-HCV positive than were exposures from all other locations (relative risk [RR] = 1.7; P= 0.009). Of HCWs who had an HCV-positive needlestick injury and whose serum had been tested for anti-HCV at least 5 months after the exposure, 3 (6.0%) of 50 seroconverted. From 1987 through 1989, the incidence of HCV infection among HCWs was 54 cases per 100,000 HCWs per year.
The incidence of clinical NANBH among HCWs in this study is approximately three times higher than that of non-HCWs. HCWs are at significant risk for exposure to and acquisition of HCV.
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