Are health workers of paediatric hospitals less prone to hepatitis B virus infection? A reappraisal of a seroepidemiological survey

Giuseppe Catania, Vincenzo Di Ciommo

Abstract

Objective – Health care workers (HCWs) are considered at risk of hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection, but the risk in those who work in paediatric hospitals has received little attention. The primary objective was to assess the prevalence of HBV infection among paediatric HCWs in comparison to those of general hospitals, on the assumption that the former are less exposed due to a lower prevalence in paediatric patients.

Methods – Data from a pre-vaccination era were retrieved, and a cross-sectional study conducted in the setting of the vaccination campaign conducted in Latium Region (Italy) to prevent hepatitis B in HCWs. HBsAg and anti-HBsAg were tested in 1,894 HCWs of paediatric and general hospitals (1,178 and 716, respectively). Multiple logistic regression was performed to adjust for confounders related to professional and personal variables.

Results – Overall prevalence in HCWs of HBV infection was 16.8% (95% confidence limits, CL: 15.2-18.6). General hospitals carried a significantly higher risk of HBV infection than paediatric hospitals (OR 1.77, 95% CL 1.35–2.31) after adjustment for confounding factors employment, department, working years, recent needle injury, and birth cohort, the latter being the only personal risk factor that added significantly to the effect of professional characteristics. Nurses and physicians were more exposed to needle injury, which was an independent significant risk factor of HBV infection (OR 1.60, 95%CL 1.19-2.14).

Conclusions – HCWs of paediatric hospitals are less at risk of HBV infection than general hospitals

Keywords

Hepatitis B virus; Health care workers; Pediatric hospital

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