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Occupational exposure and hepatitis C


Clinical bottom line

Occupational exposure to blood, including needlestick injuries, is a risk factor for hepatitis C.


LJ Yee et al. Risk factors for acquisition of hepatitis C virus infection: a case series and potential implication for disease surveillance. BMC Infectious Diseases 2001 1: 8 ( ).


This study examined risk factors for acquisition of hepatitis C virus infection in the United States [3]. Consecutive chronically infected HCV patients eligible for a clinical trial were recruited, with HBV and HIV as specific exclusions, as was advanced liver disease. A detailed questionnaire about risk factors was completed during an interview with a single investigator.


There were 148 patients (88 men, 60 women) aged 18 to 72 years (mean 45 years).Only 5% had no known risk factor, and the most commonly found known risk factors were injected drug use, sharing razors and toothbrushes, body piercing, being a recipient of blood products, sexual exposure and occupational exposure to blood in 48% to 32% of cases. Tattooing was associated with 17% of cases.

Exposure to risk factors differed greatly between men and women, with 92% of women having body piercing (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Risk factors found in men and women

Most cases had more than one risk factor. Of the 23 persons with a single risk factor 3 underwent body piercing, and one had a needlestick exposure.


This study confirms the fact the occupational exposure to blood carries a risk of contracting hepatitis C.