The incidence of occupational exposure to blood-borne diseases in the UK

  • Public Health England
  • 3 Feb 2020

  • curated by Dawn O'Shea
  • UK Medical News
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The latest Eye of the Needle Report from Public Health England (PHE) shows that there were 1450 cases of significant occupational exposures (SOEs) to blood-borne viruses among health care workers (HCWs) over a three-year period.

Between 1 January 1997 and 30 June 2018, PHE received 8765 reports of SOEs in England, Wales and Northern Ireland via initial reporting forms. A total of 234 SOEs were reported in Scotland between January 2015 and December 2017. For comparison, in the same time frame, PHE received 1216 reports of SOEs from England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Since the most recent Eye of the Needle Report in 2014, there have been two reports of confirmed hepatitis C virus (HCV) seroconversions among HCWs and ancillary staff in the UK. This brings the total number of HCV seroconversions to 23, with the last confirmed report in 2015.

All HCV seroconversions followed percutaneous exposures from hollow-bore needles; 11 incidents took place after the procedure being performed, eight during the procedure and the timing of the other four is unknown.

The 23 seroconversions were reported among seven doctors, seven nurses, two health care assistants, one dentist, one phlebotomist, one operating department assistant and one domestic worker; the professions of the other three cases are unknown.

The only report of an HIV seroconversion among HCWs in the UK was because of the percutaneous exposure from a hollow-bore needle in 1999.

As of 30 June 2018, there have been no confirmed UK cases of hepatitis B virus seroconversions as a result of SOEs among HCWs and ancillary staff.