oa South African Family Practice - Occupational exposure to bloodborne viruses amongst medical practitioners in Bloemfontein, South Africa : original research

Volume 49, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 2078-6190
  • E-ISSN: 2078-6204



: The possibility of occupational exposure to bloodborne viruses such as HIV, hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) is an everyday reality for healthcare workers. This study reports on the extent and outcome of doctors? exposure to bloodborne viruses in Bloemfontein.

: A descriptive study was done. Doctors (n=441) actively involved in public and / or private medical practice were requested to anonymously complete a questionnaire regarding occupational exposure to bloodborne viruses (HIV, HBV and HCV).
: A response rate of 51.7% was obtained. More than half (54.2%, 95% CI [47.7%; 60.5%]) of the respondents were exposed to bloodborne viruses. Of these cases, 48.3% occurred with HIV-positive patients and 4.3% with known HBV-positive patients. No cases involved positive HCV patients. After the exposure had occurred, 68.9% of the patients were tested for HIV, 10.9% for HBV and only 4.2% for HCV infection. The frequency of serological testing for doctors immediately after exposure was 65.3% for HIV, 21.7% for HBV and 8.2% for HCV. No seroconversion to HIV or HCV was reported, while two seroconversions to HBV were reported. Most of the exposures occurred as a result of needlestick injury (85%), often in the operating theatre during procedures (59.3%). The majority (59.8%) of exposed doctors did not take any prophylactic treatment and those who did, did not always complete the treatment.
: The risk of seroconversion to HIV after occupational exposure was as expected, while seroconversion to HBV was less than expected. The lack of adequate follow-up serological testing after occupational exposure is alarming. It is the responsibility of the occupationally exposed doctor to adequately comply with prophylactic measures and undergo serological testing to ensure the least possible risk of contracting infection from a bloodborne virus.

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