Particularly when it comes to surgeons, who are particularly at risk for nicks and cuts, providers may pose more of a infection-control risk than previously thought. Because viruses like hepatitis B and C and HIV are spread by blood-to-blood contact, healthcare workers are more at risk than the general population, given their more-frequent contact with bodily fluids. And since there are no laws requiring surgeons to be tested for blood-borne viruses--not to mention that infected healthcare workers generally aren't barred from practicing medicine--the risk a provider will pass along an infection mounts.
CDC officials say despite the infection hazards faced by clinicians, the risk of their transmitting nasty bugs like hep B, C or HIV is "very, very" remote, in part because healthcare providers usually get hep B vaccinations. Still, at least in New York, public officials have investigated at least two cases where clinicians may have infected their patients with hepatitis.
To get more background on this issue:
- read this piece in The New York Times
Prison hepatitis C poised to infect U.S. Report