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FDA and Partners Recommend Action to Reduce Viral Hepatitis Risk Among Health Care Personnel

Ronald Valdiserri

Dr. Ronald Valdiserri

Yesterday, colleagues at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) advanced one of the important action items detailed in the Action Plan for the Prevention, Care and Treatment of Viral Hepatitis. With the issuance of their Joint Safety Communication: Blunt-Tip Surgical Suture Needles Reduce Needlestick Injuries and the Risk of Subsequent Bloodborne Pathogen Transmission to Surgical Personnel, the federal partners remind us of an important, low-cost action that can be taken to reduce the risk of occupational transmission of the hepatitis B and hepatitis C viruses as well as HIV and protect health care workers—particularly those in specialties that includes surgery. Priority 6 of the Action Plan calls for protecting patients and workers from health-care associated viral hepatitis.

Blunt-tip suture needleThe joint communication strongly encourages health care professionals to use blunt-tip suture needles as an alternative to standard suture needles when suturing fascia and muscle to decrease the risk of needlestick injury and associated infections, including viral hepatitis. The use of sharp-tip suture needles continues to place certain health-care workers at risk for blood-borne virus transmission, accounting for almost half of percutaneous injuries among surgeons, according to the Joint Safety Communication.

Although such infections comprise a relatively small portion of new viral hepatitis infections each year in the U.S., working to prevent any such infection is an important part of our cross-agency efforts to implement the Action Plan. We are especially appreciative of the collaborative efforts of these three influential agencies, each with their own expertise and ability to reach decision-makers who can affect the changes needed to further minimize this risk among healthcare personnel. Please consider sharing this important Joint Safety Communication with the healthcare providers with whom you work.

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