CDC: Poor Infection Control Put Patients at Risk for Hepatitis B, C

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have just announced that, based on its decade-long review, it seems that over 60,000 patients have been placed at risk for potentially deadly, blood-borne infectious diseases.

According to the CDC, over the past ten years, tens of thousands of American patients have been asked to undergo <"">hepatitis B (HBV) and C (HCV) testing because proper infection control practices were not followed.  This is the first time a complete review of CDC investigations has been conducted in 10 years of such viral outbreaks, it said.  The findings appear in this week’s issue of the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

The CDC’s director of its Division of Viral Hepatitis, Dr. John Ward said, “This report is a wake-up call.  Thousands of patients are needlessly exposed to viral hepatitis and other preventable diseases in the very places where they should feel protected.  No patient should go to their doctor for health care only to leave with a life-threatening disease.”  The CDC review of outbreak data indicated that, in the past 10 years, there were 33 identified outbreaks outside of hospitals in 15 states, with 12 occurring in outpatient clinics, six in hemodialysis centers, and 15 in long-term care facilities, totaling in 450 people acquiring HBV or HCV infections.

The CDC reported that patients were exposed to the viruses because health care personnel did not follow basic infection control procedures and “aseptic” techniques in injection safety.  It has long been considered routine for patients to be subjected to the transmission of such infections while receiving health care and the CDC explained that syringe reuse and medication, equipment, and device blood contamination were common reasons for the exposure problems.

According to Dr. Denise Cardo, CDC’s director of its Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion, “More and more patients in the United States receive their health care in outpatient settings.  To protect patients, infection control training, professional oversight, licensing, innovative engineering controls, and public awareness are needed in these health care settings.”  Officials at the CDC also pointed out that the results of the study confirm a need for healthcare providers to undergo professional education and consistent state oversight in the area of detecting and preventing the transmission of blood-borne pathogens in such health care settings.

The CDC said it is collaborating with its partners by improving viral hepatitis surveillance, case investigation, and outbreak response; strengthening state and local viral hepatitis prevention programs; augmenting its National Healthcare Safety Network; partnering with the Hepatitis Outbreaks’ National Organization for Reform (HONOReform) to create patient and provider education materials; continuing its educational outreach efforts with professional nursing and anesthesiology organizations; working with partners in dialysis, diabetes, and long-term care communities; coordinating with regulators and professional societies to strengthen licensure and accreditation processes with emphasis on safe injection practices; and exploring ways to improve curricula in nursing and medical schools related to safe health care practices.

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