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Bull World Health Organ. 1997;75(5):477-89.

Practical and affordable measures for the protection of health care workers from tuberculosis in low-income countries.

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  • 1College of Medicine, University of Malawi, Chichiri.


With the global upsurge in tuberculosis (TB), fueled by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) pandemic, and the increase in multidrug-resistant TB, the condition has become a serious occupational hazard for health care workers worldwide. Much of the current understanding about nosocomial TB transmission stems from the USA; however, little is known about the risk of such transmission in low-income countries. The focus of this review is on sub-Saharan Africa, since this is the region with the highest TB incidence, the highest HIV incidence, the worst epidemic of HIV-related TB, and where the risk to health care workers is probably greatest. Measures used in industralized countries to control nosocomial TB transmission (ventilation systems, isolation rooms, personal protective equipment) are beyond the resources of low-income countries. Protecting health care workers in these settings involves practical measures relating to diagnosis and treatment of infectious cases; appropriate environmental control; and relevant personal protection and surveillance of health care workers. Research needs to be carried out to examine the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of measures such as voluntary HIV-testing of health care workers (to enable known HIV-positive health care workers to avoid high-risk settings) and isoniazid preventive therapy for workers in high-risk settings. More resources are also needed to ensure full implementation of currently recommended measures to decrease the risk of nosocomial and laboratory-acquired TB.

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