Hundreds Acquired Hepatitis B, C in US Health Care Settings

Thirty-three outbreaks found in non-hospital health care settings over decade; more than 60,000 patients were at risk

TUESDAY, Jan. 6 (HealthDay News) -- More than 400 people were found to have acquired hepatitis B virus (HBV) or hepatitis C virus (HCV) in non-hospital health care settings since 1998 in the United States, with more than 60,000 estimated to have been at risk during these outbreaks, according to research published in the Jan. 6 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Nicola D. Thompson, Ph.D., of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, and colleagues analyzed records and reports at the CDC of outbreaks of infections of these viruses in non-hospital health care settings from June 1998 to June 2008.

The investigators identified 33 outbreaks: 18 resulted in 173 cases of HBV infection, and 16 resulted in 275 cases of HCV infection, with one outbreak involving both. Twelve occurred in outpatient settings, such as endoscopy clinics; six occurred in hemodialysis clinics; and 15 occurred in long-term care facilities, the researchers report. The true number infected was probably underestimated, the authors write, and adherence to infection control practices could have prevented all of the transmission events.

"These recognized viral hepatitis outbreaks, which were caused by failure to adhere to fundamental infection control practices and aseptic technique, are under-ascertained and probably represent a much wider problem. Complex and invasive procedures are increasingly performed in non-hospital health care settings, in which routine infection control training and oversight are often inadequate. The prevention of viral hepatitis transmission in all health care settings deserves immediate attention," Thompson and colleagues write.

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