To analyze the rate of occupational exposure to blood and body fluids from all sources and specifically from human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected sources among hospital workers, by job category and work area.
Multicenter prospective study. Occupational exposure data (numerator) and full-time equivalents ([FTEs] denominator) were collected over a 5-year period (1994-1998) and analyzed.
18 Italian urban acute-care hospitals with infectious disease units.
A total of 10,988 percutaneous and 3,361 mucocutaneous exposures were reported. The highest rate of percutaneous exposure per 100 FTEs was observed among general surgery (11%) and general medicine (10.6%) nurses, the lowest among infectious diseases (1.1%) and laboratory (1%) physicians. The highest rates of mucocutaneous exposure were observed among midwives (5.3%) and dialysis nurses (4.7%), the lowest among pathologists (0%). Inadequate sharps disposal and the prevalence of sharps in the working unit influence the risk to housekeepers. The highest combined HIV exposure rates were observed among nurses (7.8%) and physicians (1.9%) working in infectious disease units. The highest rates of high-risk percutaneous exposures per 100 FTE were again observed in nurses regardless of work area, but this risk was higher in medical areas than in surgery (odds ratio, 2.1; 95% confidence interval, 1.9-2.5; P<.0001).
Exposure risk is related to job tasks, as well as to the type and complexity of care provided in different areas, whereas HIV exposure risk mainly relates to the prevalence of HIV-infected patients in a specific area. The number of accident-prone procedures, especially those involving the use of hollow-bore needles, performed by job category influence the rate of exposure with high risk of infection. Job- and area-specific exposure rates permit monitoring of the effectiveness of targeted interventions and control measures over time.
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