Healthcare Workers with Skin Abrasions May Be Vulnerable to HIV and Hepatitis C Virus

NEW YORK, N.Y. - A recent case study in the April 2003 issue of the American Journal of Infection Control (AJIC) confirms that a healthcare worker with abraded skin contracted HIV and hepatitis C virus from an infected nursing home patient. This incident was substantiated by laboratory testing conducted at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The infected healthcare aide had no non-occupational risk factors for the infection, but was regularly exposed to the patient's body fluids. The worker reported wearing gloves while providing care for the patient, but stated that these gloves tore easily. Simultaneous transmission of HIV and hepatitis C virus has been reported due to needlestick injury and mucous membrane exposure, but this case suggests for the first time that healthcare employees are vulnerable to infection through unprotected chapped and abraded skin.

According to Elaine Larson, editor of AJIC and professor of pharmaceutical and therapeutic research at the Columbia University School of Nursing, "It is essential healthcare workers to thoroughly protect themselves against non-intact skin exposure by consistent use of personal protective equipment, particularly when providing care to individuals with HIV and hepatitis C infection."

The Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, Inc. (APIC) is a non-profit, international organization that seeks to influence, support and improve the quality of healthcare through the practice and management of infection control. Based in Washington, DC, APIC (www.apic.org) has more than 110 regional chapters in the United States and more than 12,000 members worldwide.

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