Occupational infectious disease exposures in EMS personnel

Elizabeth Reed, Mohamud R. Mohamud, Jonathan Jui, Kathy Grellman, Leith Gerber, Mark O. Loveless

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Reports of occupationally transmitted hepatitis B virus (HBV) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) prompted the Portland Bureau of Fire Rescue and Emergency Services (PFB) to institute a comprehensive program for handling and tracking on-the-job infectious disease exposures. Data were collected for a 2-year period beginning January 1, 1988, and ending December 31, 1989, utilizing verbal and written exposure reports, prehospital care reports, and PFB statistical information. Two hundred and fifty-six (256) exposures were categorized. The overall incidence of reported exposure was 4.4/1,000 emergency medical service (EMS) calls. Of these exposures, 14 (5.5%) were needle sticks, 15 (5.9%) were eye splashes, 8 (3.1%) were mucous membrane exposures, 38 (14.8%) were exposure to nonintact skin, 120 (46.9%) were exposures to intact skin, and 61 (23.8%) involved respiratory exposure only. The incidence of exposure of nonintact skin or mucous membranes to blood or body fluids and needle sticks was 1.3/1,000 EMS calls. Forty-eight individuals (64% of those incurring needle sticks, or exposure of nonintact skin or mucous membranes to blood or body fluids) were treated and followed for signs of infection. Of this group, 11 individuals (26%) previously vaccinated against hepatitis B demonstrated inadequate HBsAb titers at the time of exposure. Requests for HIV and HBV information on source patients were made for needle sticks or exposure of nonintact skin or mucous membranes to blood or highrisk body fluids. Information on the source patient's HIV status was obtained for 57070 of these requests. Glove use was documented in 78% of reported exposures to intact skin and in 72% of reported needle sticks or exposure of nonintact skin and mucous membranes. The incidence of significant exposure was 1.1/1,000 Advanced Life Support (ALS) calls and 1.4/1000, on Basic Life Support (BLS) calls. These data document the risk of infectious disease exposure in the prehospital setting and strongly support the need for infectious disease education programs and hepatitis B vaccination for all prehospital care personnel.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9-16
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Emergency Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1993


  • EMS
  • HIV
  • emergency
  • epidemiology
  • exposure
  • firefighter
  • hepatitis B
  • infectious disease
  • occupational
  • paramedic
  • prehospital
  • seroprevalence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine


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