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      Waiting to inhale: factors associated with healthcare workers’ fears of occupationally-acquired tuberculosis (TB)

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          Fear of TB infection is rooted in historical and social memories of the disease, marked by stigma, segregation and exclusion. Healthcare workers (HCWs) face these same fears today, and even seek to hide their TB status when infected. This study sought to investigate factors associated with HCWs fears of acquiring TB while at work, including selected biographic characteristics, TB knowledge, infection control and perceptions that their colleagues stigmatise co-workers with TB/ presumed to have TB.


          In the Free State Province, South Africa, a representative sample of 882 HCWs from eight hospitals completed self-administered questionnaires on issues related to fear of occupationally acquired TB, infection control, TB knowledge and workplace TB stigma. The data were analysed using descriptive statistics as well as binomial logistic regression.


          Most of the HCWs (67.2%) were concerned about contracting TB at work. Support staff were less likely to worry about acquiring TB than clinical staff (OR = 0.657, P = 0.041). Respondents who indicated that there were inadequate numbers of disposable respirators at work, were 1.6 times more likely to be afraid of contracting TB at work ( P = 0.040). With every unit increase on the TB stigma scale, respondents were 1.1 times more likely to fear acquiring TB at work ( P = 0.000).


          Being a professional clinical HCW, not having adequate disposable respirators available and seeing/perceiving co-workers stigmatise colleagues with (presumptive) TB were all significantly associated with the fear of occupationally-acquired TB. It is recommended that campaigns to destigmatise TB, as well as appropriate TB infection control education and measures, are necessary to alleviate HCWs fears of acquiring the disease in the workplace. Ultimately this should create a health-enabling working environment, where HCWs are not afraid to function and are free to seek treatment and support when necessary.

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          Tuberculosis among Health Care Workers

          To assess the annual risk for latent tuberculosis infection (LTBI) among health care workers (HCWs), the incidence rate ratio for tuberculosis (TB) among HCWs worldwide, and the population-attributable fraction of TB to exposure of HCWs in their work settings, we reviewed the literature. Stratified pooled estimates for the LTBI rate for countries with low ( 100/100,000 population) TB incidence were 3.8% (95% confidence interval [CI] 3.0%–4.6%), 6.9% (95% CI 3.4%–10.3%), and 8.4% (95% CI 2.7%–14.0%), respectively. For TB, estimated incident rate ratios were 2.4 (95% CI 1.2–3.6), 2.4 (95% CI 1.0–3.8), and 3.7 (95% CI 2.9–4.5), respectively. Median estimated population-attributable fraction for TB was as high as 0.4%. HCWs are at higher than average risk for TB. Sound TB infection control measures should be implemented in all health care facilities with patients suspected of having infectious TB.
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            High incidence of hospital admissions with multidrug-resistant and extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis among South African health care workers.

            Nosocomial transmission has been described in extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB) and HIV co-infected patients in South Africa. However, little is known about the rates of drug-resistant tuberculosis among health care workers in countries with high tuberculosis and HIV burden. To estimate rates of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) and XDR-TB hospitalizations among health care workers in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Retrospective study of patients with drug-resistant tuberculosis who were admitted from 2003 to 2008 for the initiation of drug-resistant tuberculosis therapy. A public tuberculosis referral hospital in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. 231 health care workers and 4151 non-health care workers admitted for initiation of MDR-TB or XDR-TB treatment. Hospital admission rates and hospital admission incidence rate ratios. Estimated incidence of MDR-TB hospitalization was 64.8 per 100,000 health care workers versus 11.9 per 100,000 non-health care workers (incidence rate ratio, 5.46 [95% CI, 4.75 to 6.28]). Estimated incidence of XDR-TB hospitalizations was 7.2 per 100,000 health care workers versus 1.1 per 100,000 non-health care workers (incidence rate ratio, 6.69 [CI, 4.38 to 10.20]). A higher percentage of health care workers than non-health care workers with MDR-TB or XDR-TB were women (78% vs. 47%; P < 0.001), and health care workers were less likely to report previous tuberculosis treatment (41% vs. 92%; P < 0.001). HIV infection did not differ between health care workers and non-health care workers (55% vs. 57%); however, among HIV-infected patients, a higher percentage of health care workers were receiving antiretroviral medications (63% vs. 47%; P < 0.001). The study had an observational retrospective design, is subject to referral bias, and had no information on type of health care work or duration of occupational exposure to tuberculosis. Health care workers in this HIV-endemic area were substantially more likely to be hospitalized with either MDR-TB or XDR-TB than were non-health care workers. The increased risk may be explained by occupational exposure, underlining the urgent need for tuberculosis infection-control programs.
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              Tuberculosis and Stigmatization: Pathways and Interventions


                Author and article information

                BMC Infect Dis
                BMC Infect. Dis
                BMC Infectious Diseases
                BioMed Central (London )
                28 May 2019
                28 May 2019
                : 19
                [1 ]ISNI 0000 0001 2284 638X, GRID grid.412219.d, Centre for Health Systems Research & Development, , University of the Free State, ; Nelson Mandela Road, Bloemfontein, 9300 South Africa
                [2 ]ISNI 0000 0001 0790 3681, GRID grid.5284.b, Research Centre for Longitudinal & Life Course Studies (CELLO), , University of Antwerp, ; Sint-Jacobstraat 2, BE-2000 Antwerp, Belgium
                © The Author(s). 2019

                Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

                Funded by: VLIR UOS
                Award ID: ZEIN2015PR415
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                Research Article
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                © The Author(s) 2019


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