Purpose: The aim of the study is to estimate incidence rates of occupational blood exposure by route of exposure (needlesticks; cuts from sharp objects; mucous membrane exposures to the eyes, nose, or mouth; bites; and blood contact with nonintact skin) in US and California paramedics.
Methods: A mail survey was conducted in a national probability sample of certified paramedics.
Results: Proportions of paramedics who reported an exposure in the previous year were 21.6% (95% confidence interval [CI], 17.8-25.3) for the national sample and 14.8% (95% CI, 12.2-17.4) for California. The overall incidence rate was 6.0/10,000 calls (95% CI, 3.9-8.1). These rates represent more than 49,000 total exposures and more than 10,000 needlesticks per year among paramedics in the United States. Rates for mucocutaneous exposures and needlesticks were similar (approximately 1.2/10,000 calls). Rates for California were one third to one half the national rates. Sensitivity analysis showed that potential response bias would have little impact on the policy and intervention implications of the findings.
Conclusion: Paramedics continue to be at substantial risk for blood exposure. More attention should be given to reducing mucocutaneous exposures. The impact of legislation on reducing exposures and the importance of nonintact skin exposures need to be better understood.