Modifications to work and work ability assessment are required to prevent occupational transmission of hepatitis C virus (HCV). This is usually required in the health care setting, where exposure-prone procedures (EPPs) should not be carried out by infectious carriers of HCV. The risk of an individual surgeon acquiring HCV has been estimated at 0.001–0.032% per annum. Even in an area with a high prevalence of HCV among its population, the risk of acquiring HCV through occupational exposure is low. Rates of viral clearance with treatment of acute HCV infection are considerably higher than treatment of chronic HCV infection. Consequently, it is imperative that health care workers follow universal precautions and promptly report all exposures to blood or body fluid exposures according to their local policy. Health care workers who embark on, or transfer to, a career that requires EPP (exposure-prone procedures and dialysis work) should be assessed to ensure that they are free from infection with HCV. If the HCV antibodies are positive, the health care worker should be tested for HCV RNA PCR. If the HCV RNA PCR is negative on two separate occasions, the health care worker may be permitted to perform EPPs. If the HCV RNA PCR is positive, the health care worker should not be allowed to perform EPPs. Health care workers who already perform EPPs and who believe they may have been exposed to HCV infection should be advised to seek advice from their occupational health department for confidential advice on whether they should be tested.
Part of the book: Update on Hepatitis C