Skip navigation

Needlestick injuries in UK health care workers


Clinical bottom line

Hepatitis B occurred in 0.8% of source patients, but a significant minority of workers were not protected, and the number of accidents was high. The risk of transmission was not negligible.


AJ Alzahrani et al. Needlestick injuries and hepatitis B virus vaccination in health care workers. Communicable Disease and Public Health 2000 3: 217-218.


This was a retrospective examination of all needlestick incidents in 10 hospitals in the Greater Manchester area between 1992 and 1999. Source patients and recipients were tested for hepatitis B surface antigen and for antibodies to surface antigen.


There were 2,646 incidents reported over seven years.

Of 2,084 samples from source patients, hepatitis B antigen or antibody was detected in 16 (0.8%; nine antigen, seven antibody).

There were 1,967 samples from health care workers (76% women). Ten percent of these had never been vaccinated. One in four of the vaccinated workers had no detectable antibodies to hepatitis B. Slightly lower rates of vaccination were found in workers aged over 60 years (60%), and at younger ages about 70% or above had been vaccinated.


The risk of transmission was low, because under 1% of the source patients had evidence of hepatitis B infection. But one in four health care workers had no evidence of protection, and there were rather a lot of needlestick injuries. That left a risk of transmission that was not negligible.