Objectives: To determine the incidence of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection among healthcare workers (HCWs) at a university hospital, the proportion of HCWs having non-A, non-B hepatitis (NANBH) who were anti-HCV positive, and the rate of HCV transmission following a HCV-positive needlestick injury.
Design: Longitudinal analysis of a dynamic (cohort) population.
Measurements: From 1980 through 1989, HCWs who had clinical NANBH were identified, and from 1987 through 1989, HCWs who reported a blood or body fluid exposure and the patients who were the source of the exposure were screened for antibodies to HCV.
Setting: A 732-bed, university hospital and outpatient clinics.
Results: Over the 10-year period, six cases of occupationally acquired NANBH were observed, for an incidence of 21 cases per 100,000 HCWs per year (standardized incidence ratio, 2.96; 95% confidence interval [CI95], 1.83 to 4.36). Four of the six cases were confirmed to be HCV infection. From 1987 through 1989, 176 (12.7%) of 1,387 patients who were the source of an exposure were anti-HCV positive. Exposures that occurred in the emergency department were more likely to be anti-HCV positive than were exposures from all other locations (relative risk [RR] = 1.7; P = 0.009). Of HCWs who had an HCV-positive needlestick injury and whose serum had been tested for anti-HCV at least 5 months after the exposure, 3 (6.0%) of 50 seroconverted. From 1987 through 1989, the incidence of HCV infection among HCWs was 54 cases per 100,000 HCWs per year.
Conclusion: The incidence of clinical NANBH among HCWs in this study is approximately three times higher than that of non-HCWs. HCWs are at significant risk for exposure to and acquisition of HCV.