Hepatitis B virus infected health care workers in the Netherlands, 2000-2008
In response to the confirmed transmission of hepatitis B virus (HBV) from a surgeon to several patients in the Netherlands, a 'Committee for Prevention of Iatrogenic Hepatitis B' was established in 2000. During the years 2000-2008, the committee reviewed 99 cases of HBV-infected health care workers. Fifty of them were found to perform exposure prone procedures (EPPs). Because of high levels of HBV DNA (>100,000 copies/ml), a ban on performing EPPs was applied in 11/50 cases; 25/50 low-viremic health care workers were allowed to continue EPPs while their HBV load was being monitored; and 14/50 cases had stopped working or changed profession. In five restricted workers who started oral antiviral treatment, HBV replication was persistently suppressed, enabling the ban on EPPs to be lifted. Throughout the European Union different levels of HBV viremia have been chosen, above which health care workers are not allowed to perform EPPs. It remains unknown how this affects the safety of patients. Application in the Netherlands of a European or a British guideline would have, respectively, doubled or tripled the number of restricted health care workers.