Hepatitis B virus (HBV) is a potentially life-threatening bloodborne pathogen. centers for Disease Control estimates there are approximately 280,000 HBV infections each year in the U.S.
Approximately 8,700 health care workers each year contract hepatitis B, and about 200 will dieas a result. In addition, some who contract HBV will become carriers, passing the disease on to others. Carriers also face a significantly higher risk for other liver ailments which can be fatal, including cirrhosis of the liver and primary liver cancer.
HBV infection is transmitted through exposure to blood and other infections body fluids and tissues. Anyone with occupational exposure to blood is at risk of contracting the infection.
Employers must provide engineering controls; workers must use work practices and protective clothing and equipment prevent exposure to potentially infectious materials. However, the best defense against hepatitis B is vaccination.
The new OSHA standard covering bloodborne pathogens requires employers to offer the three-injection vaccination series free to all employees who are exposed to blood or other potentially infectious materials as part of their job duties. This includes health care workers, emergency responders, morticians, first-aid personnel, law enforcement officers, correctional facilities staff, launderers, as well as others.
The Hepatitis B vaccination is a noninfectious yeast-based vaccine given in three injections in the arm.
The Second injection should be given one month after the first, and the third injection six months after the initial dose. More than 90 percent of those vaccinated will develop immunity to the hepatitis B virus.
Workers who decide to decline vaccination must complete a declination form. At any time after a worker initially declines to receive the vaccine, he or she may opt to take it.
If a worker experiences an exposure incident, such as a needlestick or a blood splash in the eye, he or she must receive confidential medical evaluation from a licensed health care professional with appropriate follow-up.
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