Health care workers ignorant of Hepatitis B infection

Study by Pune-based medical college shows they need to be vaccinated at time of employment

Charity begins at home is the message of a research study by doctors from Smt Kashibai Navale Medical College on 220 health care workers (HCWs) in hospitals.

The study found that the HCWs in hospitals carried a high risk of getting infected with Hepatitis B as most of those surveyed had little awareness of the disease and practised few precautions for safe disposal of blood and other body fluids of patients.

Only one in five HCWs surveyed knew proper techniques to destroy and disinfect the blood and body fluids of patients and an equal number knew it could be transmitted by tattooing, ear and nose piercing.

Despite the obvious risk to HCWs, shockingly only one out of four were vaccinated against Hepatitis B.

Dr Shankar Bhosale and Dr Kevin Fernandez of the medical college conducted the study on workers of a tertiary-care teaching hospital in Pune to assess the basic knowledge, attitude and practices concerning viral Hepatitis B among class IV workers.

”We surveyed all the hospital workers and found that though they were aware about the viral disease, their knowledge, attitude and practices regarding Hepatitis B was not adequate enough. The workers were not trained to handle the harmful waste generated at the hospital which puts them at a greater risk of getting infected,” said Bhosale.

In the case of acute Hepatitis B, the person’s immune system may get rid of it within a period of time. However, the patient is capable of transmitting it to others. “As many as 78 per cent of the health care workers are unaware of the fact that they are at a high risk of Hepatitis B. They are negligent while collecting and disposing waste like syringes, blood and other body fluids as no prior training is given to them,” said Bhosale.

If a proper vaccination course is given, people develop immunity towards it. Bhosale claimed that vaccination against the disease is the responsibility of the hospital. He added, “Vaccination against the disease is a major concern and should be taken care of by the hospitals while employing the workers.”

Lack of awareness among workers at hospitals make them open to the risk of getting infected with the disease. Hospital workers need to be educated through compulsory, periodic on the job training regarding exposure to risk factors of Hepatitis B and practical aspects of Hepatitis B transmission. Preventive measures and vaccination against Hepatitis B among workers should be mandatory.

The article appeared in DNA on December 29th, 2013. 

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