Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Exposure to Blood: Treatment for the Exposure

Is vaccine or treatment available to prevent infections with blood-borne pathogens?


As mentioned above, hepatitis B vaccine has been available since 1982 to prevent HBV infection. All healthcare personnel who have a reasonable chance of exposure to blood or body fluids should receive hepatitis B vaccine. Vaccination ideally should occur during the healthcare worker's training period. Workers should be tested 1-2 months after the vaccine series is complete to make sure that vaccination has provided immunity to HBV infection. Hepatitis B immune globulin (HBIG) alone or in combination with vaccine (if not previously vaccinated) is effective in preventing HBV infection after an exposure. The decision to begin treatment is based on several factors, such as:
  • Whether the source individual is positive for hepatitis B surface antigen
  • Whether you have been vaccinated
  • Whether the vaccine provided you immunity


There is no vaccine against hepatitis C and no treatment after an exposure that will prevent infection. Neither immune globulin nor antiviral therapy is recommended after exposure. For these reasons, following recommended infection control practices to prevent percutaneous injuries is imperative.


There is no vaccine against HIV. However, results from a small number of studies suggest that the use of some antiretroviral drugs after certain occupational exposures may reduce the chance of HIV transmission. Postexposure prophylaxis (PEP) is recommended for certain occupational exposures that pose a risk of transmission. However, for those exposures without risk of HIV infection, PEP is not recommended because the drugs used to prevent infection may have serious side effects. You should discuss the risks and side effects with your healthcare provider before starting PEP for HIV.

How are exposures to blood from an individual whose infection status is unknown handled?


If the source individual cannot be identified or tested, decisions regarding follow-up should be based on the exposure risk and whether the source is likely to be infected with a bloodborne pathogen. Follow-up testing should be available to all personnel who are concerned about possible infection through occupational exposure.

What specific drugs are recommended for postexposure treatment?


If you have not been vaccinated, then hepatitis B vaccination is recommended for any exposure regardless of the source person's HBV status. HBIG and/or hepatitis B vaccine may be recommended depending on the source person's infection status, your vaccination status and, if vaccinated, your response to the vaccine.


There is no postexposure treatment that will prevent HCV infection.


The Public Health Service recommends a 4-week course of a combination of either two antiretroviral drugs for most HIV exposures, or three antiretroviral drugs for exposures that may pose a greater risk for transmitting HIV (such as those involving a larger volume of blood with a larger amount of HIV or a concern about drug-resistant HIV). Differences in side effects associated with the use of these drugs may influence which drugs are selected in a specific situation. These recommendations are intended to provide guidance to clinicians and may be modified on a case-by-case basis. Determining which drugs and how many drugs to use or when to change a treatment regimen is largely a matter of judgment. Whenever possible, consulting an expert with experience in the use of antiviral drugs is advised, especially if a recommended drug is not available, if the source patient's virus is likely to be resistant to one or more recommended drugs, or if the drugs are poorly tolerated.

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