Occupational Exposures to Blood and Body Fluids Remain Common Despite Safety Devices, Education

Amy M. Treakle, MD, an infectious diseases and infection control expert at Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and colleagues, sought to analyze a decade of hospital staff and student exposures to blood and body fluids (BBF) and to identify risk factors relevant to prevention strategies.

The researchers conducted a retrospective review of a 1999-2008 data set of BBF exposures at Washington, D.C. Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VA-DC), an inner-city tertiary care hospital. The data detailed the type of exposure, the setting in which the exposure occurred and the occupational group of the BBF-exposed personnel.

Treackle, et al. found 564 occupational exposures to BBF, of which 66 percent were caused by needlesticks and 20 percent were caused by sharp objects. Exposures occurred most often in the acute-care setting (39 percent of exposures) and the operating room (22 percent of exposures). There was a mean of 4.9 exposures per 10,000 acute care patient-days, 0.5 exposures per 10,000 long-term care patient-days, and 0.35 exposures per 10,000 outpatient visits. Housestaff accounted for the highest number of all exposures (35 percent). On average, there were 15.2 exposures per 100 housestaff full-time equivalents. An average of only one exposure per year occurred in the hemodialysis center.

The researchers conclude that occupational exposures to BBF remain common, but rates vary widely by setting and occupational group. Overall rates are steady across a decade, despite the use of various antiexposure devices and provider education programs. Targeting occupational groups and hospital settings that have been shown to have the highest risk rates is key to future preventive strategies.

Reference: Treakle AM, Schultz M, Giannakos GP, Joyce PC and Gordin FM. Evaluating a Decade of Exposures to Blood and Body Fluids in an Inner-City Teaching Hospital. Infect Control Hosp Epidm. October 2011.