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Gary Evans writes Hospital Infection Control & Prevention (HIC), Hospital Employee Health (HEH) and contributes to IRB Advisor (IRB). As senior writer at AHC, Evans has written numerous articles on infectious disease threats to both patients and health care workers, including pandemic influenza, MERS and Ebola. He has been honored for excellence in analytical reporting five times by the National Press Club in Washington, DC.
In the 1980s when HIV infection was tantamount to a death sentence, health care workers bravely took care of the first epidemic waves of AIDs patients. Tragically, needlesticks and blood exposures then led to the first occupational HIV infections, helping to propel the movement for sharps safety in health care.
The evidence now shows the success of safer devices, standard precautions and post-exposure prophylaxis: In the past 15 years, only one health care worker developed HIV in a confirmed occupational exposure, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Twelve other health care workers had HIV infections that were possibly occupationally linked, the CDC says.
The improvement in HIV treatment often means lower viral loads for patients and better post-exposure prophylaxis for health care workers, says David Kuhar, MD, medical officer with CDC’s Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion, told Hospital Employee Health. But health care workers must report their exposures and receive prompt evaluation and follow up, he says.
“It remains critical to report these injuries and take them seriously, and not just [out of concern] for HIV,” he says. “There’s also risk for infection with other bloodborne pathogens.”
For more on this story see an upcoming issue of HEH.