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SAMJ: South African Medical Journal

On-line version ISSN 2078-5135
Print version ISSN 0256-9574


MOSENDANE, T; KEW, M C; OSIH, R  and  MAHOMED, A. Nurses at risk for occupationally acquired blood-borne virus infection at a South African academic hospital. SAMJ, S. Afr. med. j. [online]. 2012, vol.102, n.3, pp.153-156. ISSN 2078-5135.

AIM: We aimed to ascertain if there had been any improvement in the number of nurses being immunised against hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection in a large academic hospital in which, 10 years previously, only 30.6% of the nurses were immune to infection with the virus, and to ascertain the incidence of infection with hepatitis C virus (HCV) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in these nurses. METHODS: We studied 170 predominantly black nurses. Their blood was tested for the presence of active or past HBV infection using appropriate immunoassays, HCV infection by chromatographic immunoassays confirmed by polymerase chain reaction assays, and HIV using a rapid test confirmed by enzymelinked immunosorbent assays. RESULTS: Serum of 89 (52.4%) nurses was positive for hepatitis B surface antibody (anti-HBs). Of these nurses 18 said that they had not received the vaccine; the serum of 9 of these was positive for anti-hepatitis B core antibody (anti-HBc) as well as anti-HBs, indicating natural infection with the virus. Of the nurses positive for anti-HBs, 89 were tested for anti-HBc; 28.2% tested positive for anti-HBc. Three nurses gave dates of immunisation that fell outside of their nursing careers; 3 (1.8%) were actively infected with the virus; 2 (1.8%) were infected with HCV; 10 nurses (5.9%) were positive for HIV. CONCLUSION: Nurses at this academic hospital remain at high risk of work-related HBV infection.

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