Few Safeguards Protect Patients From Blood-Borne Infections

Armen Hareyan's picture
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The New York Times on Tuesday examined how "troublingly little is known" about the "possibility of getting a viral infection from a health care worker." According to the Times, current policy does not require health care workers or surgeons to be tested for blood-borne viruses, and infected workers are not barred from offering medical services, including surgery.

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Federal health officials say that the risk of a health care worker passing a blood infection on to a patient is minimal, but "some critics say a double standard is in effect: While clear protocols are in place to protect health care workers exposed to a patient's blood, no such protections exist for patients undergoing invasive procedures," the Times reports.

According to Janine Jagger, an epidemiologist who is director of the International Healthcare Worker Safety Center at the University of Virginia Health System, "Patients don't know when they've been exposed to blood -- they're under anesthesia when this happens. If there's no report of it in the record, then nothing is done about it." Jagger added, "Patients never suspect this could happen to them. It's really swept under the carpet" (Rabin, New York Times, 7/3).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report, search the archives. The Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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