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“The only thing necessary for these diseases to the triumph is for good people and governments to do nothing.”

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HEPATITIS C is proving to be an occupational hazard for healthcare workers in India.

Thursday April 13, 2006

According to a study reported in the February issue of Indian Journal of Medical Research, an ICMR publication, says there is about 4 per cent prevalence of the disease among healthcare workers — about double the percentage found in general population.

Hepatitis C is a dangerous liver disease cause by Hepatitis C virus and can lead to liver failure in the longer run.

As there is no significant data available regarding prevalence of the disease in healthcare workers — the sample study conducted in a tertiary care centre in New Delhi — Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Hospital has been taken as a sample. The study was conducted by the Department of Medicine of Maulana Azad Medical College that is attached to the hospital.


The study was conducted in the hospital between June 2003 and August 2003. The study included 100 subjects, which included residents, doctors, nurses, technicians and those working in haemodialysis units and laboratories, blood banks and dental units. The healthcare workers were in the age group of 34 to 40 years working for not less than seven years.

Of the total 113 healthcare workers selected, 13 were excluded from the study based on their history suggestive of the presence of disease or even daily intake of alcohol, which leads to the disease.

According to the researchers, 4-5-ml blood sample was drawn from each subject and stored under asseptic conditions.

In this study, the overall prevalence was found to be 4 per cent in the hospital. The prevalence was found high in haemodialysis units (8.33 per cent), blood banks ( 5.56 per cent) and haemodialysis laboratories ( 4 per cent). None of the subjects, however, were found positive in dental units and biochemical and other laboratories.

According to the researchers, the prevalence was much higher than general population which is mostly less than 2 per cent.

The researchers say it is imperative that healthcare workers be sensitised about precautions and safe disposal of needles and other contaminated material.

Occupational hazard
The higher prevalence among healthcare workers may be due to their exposure to infected blood/blood products of patients suffering from the disease. The exposure may be in form of needle pricks, contact of cut skin surface with blood or blood products and improper disposal of infected medical waste.