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Bloodborne Pathogen Exposure Highest Among Healthcare Workers

Armen Hareyan's picture

Health Care Workers' Health

Although numerous occupations risk bloodborne pathogen (BBP) exposure, rates are highest for healthcare workers, according to a report in the March American Journal of Industrial Medicine.

"BBP exposure is a significant occupational safety and health problem in U.S. healthcare settings," Dr. Guang X. Chen from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), Morgantown, West Virginia told Reuters Health. "It is preventable."

Dr. Chen and Dr. E. Lynn Jenkins used data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) to investigate the magnitude and distribution of potential BBP exposures across all industries and occupations in the United States.

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Workers employed in hospitals accounted for three-quarters of the more than 234,000 exposures between 1998 and 2000, the authors report, but workers from 8 other industries (nursing homes, justice/public order/safety, health services other than hospitals, residential care facilities without nurses, dentist offices, bus services/urban transit, physician offices, and elementary/secondary schools) also had a substantial number of cases.

Registered nurses represented 36% of all exposures, the results indicate, and 9 other occupations (including police/detectives/public services, janitors and cleaners, and other occupations) had significant numbers of exposures.

The largest increases in exposures during this period were among physicians (101%) and laboratory technicians/technologists (31%), the researchers note, whereas exposure rates remained relatively stable for registered nurses.

"This surveillance study is but a first step in further understanding the complex issues surrounding workplace