Health Risk

OSHA estimates that 8 million workers in the health care industry and related occupations are at risk of occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens. Bloodborne pathogens, pathogenic microorganisms that are present in human blood and can cause disease in humans, include Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), Hepatitis B Virus (HBV), Hepatitis C Virus (HCV), and others. From these sharps injuries more than three-dozen U.S. healthcare workers a year contract HIV. Two thousand workers a year become infected with hepatitis C, and 400 contract hepatitis B.

A typical needle can harbor more than 20 diseases which can then be transmitted through needlesticks. Between 1978 and December 1999 there have been 56 documented cases and 136 possible cases of occupational HIV transmission to U.S. Healthcare workers. 16,000 of the 600,000 to one million needlestick injuries each year result in HIV exposure. There are 35 new cases each year. Following the regulatory and legislative efforts, including the OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens Standard, cases of hepatitis B in health care workers dropped from 17,000 annually to 400 annually – and continue to drop. Testing for hepatitis C after needlestick injuries was only recommended in 1998.

There could be thousands and thousands of nurses with occupationally acquired hepatitis C who do not know it. Hepatitis C is the most frequent infection resulting from needlestick and sharps injuries. Of healthcare workers who become infected, 85% become chronic carriers. Chronic carriers have the potential to spread the disease to others, including their partners.

OSHA estimates that 8 million workers in the health care industry and related occupations are at risk of occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens. Bloodborne pathogens, pathogenic microorganisms that are present in human blood and can cause disease in humans, include Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), Hepatitis B Virus (HBV), Hepatitis C Virus (HCV), and others. From these sharps injuries more than three-dozen U.S. healthcare workers a year contract HIV. Two thousand workers a year become infected with hepatitis C, and 400 contract hepatitis B.

A typical needle can harbor more than 20 diseases which can then be transmitted through needlesticks. Between 1978 and December 1999 there have been 56 documented cases and 136 possible cases of occupational HIV transmission to U.S. Healthcare workers. 16,000 of the 600,000 to one million needlestick injuries each year result in HIV exposure. There are 35 new cases each year. Following the regulatory and legislative efforts, including the OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens Standard, cases of hepatitis B in health care workers dropped from 17,000 annually to 400 annually – and continue to drop. Testing for hepatitis C after needlestick injuries was only recommended in 1998.

There could be thousands and thousands of nurses with occupationally acquired hepatitis C who do not know it. Hepatitis C is the most frequent infection resulting from needlestick and sharps injuries. Of healthcare workers who become infected, 85% become chronic carriers. Chronic carriers have the potential to spread the disease to others, including their partners.

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