The aim of this study was to assess the demographic factors and pattern of injuries sustained by nurses, and to determine the occupational hazard of exposure to hepatitis B (HBV) and C (HCV) viruses among nurses. The study involved 906 hospital-based nurses working in three large hospitals. Between August 2002 and January 2003 a total of 595 practising nurses were accepted for inclusion. The results of questionnaires completed were collated and χ2 and ratios were used for analysis. Of the 595 nurses, 111 (18·7%) had evidence of previous or current HBV infection and 32 (5·4%) of HCV infection. We found that 11·2% of the nurses who had worked for a period of between 0 and 5 years and 37·1% of those who had worked for a period between 16 and 20 years had evidence of HBV or HCV infection. Of the nurses working in surgical clinics, 59·4% had evidence of previous HBV or HCV infection and those working in hospital clinics had an 18·2% infection rate. Of the nurses occupationally exposed to HBV and HCV infections, 22·4% had received sharps injuries from apparatus and 63·6% had suffered needlestick exposure. Findings also showed 2·7% HBsAg positivity and 5·4% anti-HCV positivity. Of the 452 (76%) nurses who faced the occupational hazard of exposure to hepatitis infections, 27·7% (125/452) had not been vaccinated against HBV. Nurses working in our health-care sector are frequently exposed to occupational exposure for HBV and HCV infections. In order to prevent the infection of nurses with hepatitis, we advocate precautions and protection from sharps injuries. A programme of education, vaccination and post-exposure prophylaxis must be implemented.
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