November 1985

Occupational Exposure to Hepatitis B in Paramedics

Author Affiliations

From the Divisions of Emergency Services (Drs Valenzuela and Copass) and Infectious Diseases (Drs Hook and Corey), Department of Medicine, Harborview Medical Center, Seattle. Dr Valenzuela is now with the University of Arizona Health Sciences Center, Tucson.

Arch Intern Med. 1985;145(11):1976-1977. doi:10.1001/archinte.1985.00360110046012

• To determine their occupational risk for hepatitis B infection, 59 Seattle paramedics were tested for hepatitis B serum markers. Evidence of antibody to hepatitis B surface antigen (anti-HBs) or antibody to hepatitis B core antigen (anti-HBc) was found in 25%, a rate five times that of a similar Seattle population. Seropositivity did not correlate with age, race, clinical history, or length of service. Of the 15 paramedics with seropositivity to hepatitis B virus, six initially had low titers of either anti-HBs or anti-HBc. Four of the six demonstrated persistent low-grade seropositivity on retesting. Paramedics are at increased risk of hepatitis B infection. The high frequency of low-titer anti-HBs suggests that frequent low-level exposure to hepatitis B virus occurs in this population; hepatitis B vaccine should be strongly considered for paramedics.

(Arch Intern Med 1985;145:1976-1977)