Author(s): Taylor R, Sladden T, Levy S, Gust I, Macaskill P,
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Abstract Hepatitis B immunization for health care workers is common policy in many countries where they constitute a particular at risk group. A seroepidemiological study of hepatitis B virus (HBV) in Fiji health care workers was conducted to determine whether this occupational group (or subgroups thereof) were at higher risk of infection than the general Fiji population. The purpose of this study was to ascertain whether health staff should be immunized, or whether it would be more productive to focus resources on neonatal immunization. Blood samples were obtained from 2,639 health workers and the sera analysed by radio-immunoassay for hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg), and hepatitis B surface antibody (anti-HBs). Prevalence rates of HBV markers of infection were compared with those observed in the general population, from a previous population-based cluster sample survey. Approximately 70\% of the health care staff participated in the study. Prevalence of total HBV markers was 24\%. The rate of HBsAg was 5\%. Sex and ethnic group specific prevalence rates varied. Male subjects, Fijians and "other" Pacific Islanders all experienced higher rates of infection. Rural/urban and age related trends were also observed. Rates of infection in health staff were lower than those reported in the general population. Previous studies have indicated that most of the transmission of hepatitis B in hyperemdemic Pacific populations occurs at birth or within the next few years. There was no consistent pattern of hepatitis B infection in different occupational groups of health care workers. Certain relatively socially homogeneous subgroups of health workers were analysed separately, and among these health workers there was evidence for increased risk of infection due to exposure to blood or used hypodermic syringes, but not due to patient contact. Until health staff assume a higher risk of infection than the general Fijian population, efforts directed at community-wide control of hepatitis B continue to be the most appropriate use of resources.
This article was published in Southeast Asian J Trop Med Public Health
and referenced in Journal of Infectious Diseases & Preventive Medicine