Saturday, February 15, 2014
A large-scale survey of South African healthcare workers has revealed major gaps in workplace protection against tuberculosis, HIV and hepatitis
Preliminary results of the 2012 baseline survey of more than 1,000 healthcare workers in three hospitals show that more than 68% of patient care staff had never been screened for TB; nearly 20% were not vaccinated against hepatitis; and 55% did not wear respiratory protection when needed. Despite South Africa's high TB and HIV rates - 18% of its adult population is HIV-positive - and risk of hepatitis transmission, recapping of used needles before disposal and washing and reusing of gloves were common, with more than 20% surveyed reporting needle-stick injury or unprotected exposure to bodily fluids. Healthcare workers in South Africa are at three times the risk of contracting TB than other South Africans, and more than seven times more likely to be hospitalized for drug-resistant TB. A 2013 WHO estimate showed that South Africans were almost 300 times more likely to contract TB than Americans.