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

    

 

Public Safety Employees' Prevalence of Hepatitis C

Antibody in the State of Florida

Michael W Dailey, Miriam Boraz, Andra L Thomas and Barry Migicovsky

University Of Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh, PA

ABSTRACT

Objectives: This study was done to determine the prevalence of hepatitis C virus (Hepatitis C Virus) infection in the public safety employees in the State of Florida as an integral part of an Hepatitis C Virus awareness and education campaign. Methods: Attendees at a hepatitis C education program were eligible. Each completed a survey regarding Hepatitis C Virus testing and occupational exposures and was offered testing for Hepatitis C Virus antibody. Testing was confidential; follow up testing as well as post-test counseling and referral were offered if Hepatitis C Virus antibody-positive. Results: A total of 3,362 participated; 85% were firefighter/paramedics.

 

Participants were predominantly white (84.9%); 12.8% African American, and 14% Hispanic. Two thirds were 30-49 years old, and 9.6% were female. The number of years employed in public safety ranged from 1 to 54 years (mean = 16.1). Hepatitis C Virus antibody prevalence was 2.1% (n = 70), and 0.8% self-reported prior diagnosis. Most of the Hepatitis C Virus antibody-positive workers, 81.4% (n = 68), indicated blood or body fluid exposures in their careers, with 5.7% reporting 1, 14.3% reporting 2-3, and 55.7% reporting greater than 8 exposures. Sixty percent (n = 42) had never suffered a needlestick injury. Of the sample, 2.3% of men and 0.6% of women are Hepatitis C Virus antibody-positive (2 = 0.049).

Conclusions: The CDC reported, in the MMWR 7/28/00, that there was no increased prevalence of Hepatitis C Virus antibody among fire-rescue workers when compared to the national prevalence. Preliminary data from this study were included in their analysis. There is variability in Hepatitis C Virus prevalence by race, gender, and geographic distribution. Testing public safety workers attending these educational workshops revealed a 2.1% Hepatitis C Virus antibody prevalence rate. Additional studies must be performed to establish trends and demonstrate specific risks. Ethical considerations for future Hepatitis C Virus testing programs should ensure professional pre- and post-test counseling, employment protection, and adequate health care coverage for those who are positive.