More Than 60,000 Patients Risked Hepatitis Infections

Poor infection-control practices to blame, U.S. study finds

TUESDAY, Jan. 6, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- Failure to follow basic infection practices placed more than 60,000 U.S. patients at risk for hepatitis B and C, a new U.S. government review reported Tuesday.

The review, published in the Jan. 6 issue of the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, concluded that health care personnel in settings outside hospitals failed to follow basic infection control practices. Reuse of syringes and blood-contamination of medications, equipment and devices were identified as common factors, the study found.

Transmission of HBV and HCV while receiving health care had been considered uncommon in the United States, but the study revealed 33 identified outbreaks outside of hospitals in 15 states, during the past 10 years: 12 in outpatient clinics, six in hemodialysis centers, and 15 in long-term care facilities, resulting in 450 people acquiring hepatitis infections.

"This report is a wake-up call," Dr. John Ward, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's division of viral hepatitis, said in an agency news release. "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 health care only to leave with a life-threatening disease."

CDC officials said the findings showed the need for ongoing professional education and oversight for health care providers, as well as:

  • Improving viral hepatitis surveillance, case investigation and outbreak response.
  • Strengthening state and local viral hepatitis prevention programs.
  • Augmenting the CDC's National Healthcare Safety Network, the national surveillance system for tracking health care-associated infections, to collect outpatient setting information.
  • Partnering with the Hepatitis Outbreaks' National Organization for Reform (HONOReform), a patient advocacy foundation, to create patient and provider education materials.
  • Working with partners in the dialysis, diabetes and long-term care communities to promote safe practices, and with regulators and professional societies to strengthen licensure and accreditation processes.

More information

Learn more about preventing viral hepatitis in health care settings at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

SOURCE: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, news release, Jan. 6, 2009
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