Hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection is a global public health challenge. Prevalence of current hepatitis B virus infection in the general population in Uganda is about 10%. Health care workers (HCW) have an extra risk of getting infected from their workplace and yet they are not routinely vaccinated against HBV infection. This study aimed at estimating prevalence of hepatitis B virus infection and associated risk factors among health care workers in a tertiary hospital in Uganda.
Data were obtained from a cross sectional survey conducted in Mulago, a national referral and teaching hospital in Uganda among health care workers in 2003. A proportionate to size random sample was drawn per health care worker category. A structured questionnaire was used to collect data on socio-demographic characteristics and risk factors. ELISA was used to test sera for HBsAg, anti-HBs and total anti-HBc. Descriptive and logistic regression models were used for analysis.
Among the 370 participants, the sero-prevalence of current hepatitis B virus infection was 8.1%; while prevalence of life time exposure to hepatitis B virus infection was 48.1%. Prevalence of needle stick injuries and exposure to mucous membranes was 67.8% and 41.0% respectively. Cuts were also common with 31.7% of doctors reporting a cut in a period of one year preceding the survey. Consistent use of gloves was reported by 55.4% of respondents. The laboratory technicians (18.0% of respondents) were the least likely to consistently use gloves. Only 6.2% of respondents were vaccinated against hepatitis B virus infection and 48.9% were susceptible and could potentially be protected through vaccination. Longer duration in service was associated with a lower risk of current infection (OR = 0.13; p value = 0.048). Being a nursing assistant (OR = 17.78; p value = 0.007) or a laboratory technician (OR = 12.23; p value = 0.009) were associated with a higher risk of current hepatitis B virus infection. Laboratory technicians (OR = 3.99; p value = 0.023) and individuals with no training in infection prevention in last five years (OR = 1.85; p value = 0.015) were more likely to have been exposed to hepatitis B virus infection before.
The prevalence of current and life time exposure to hepatitis B virus infection was high. Exposure to potentially infectious body fluids was high and yet only a small percentage of HCW were vaccinated. There is need to vaccinate all health care workers as a matter of policy and ensure a safer work environment.