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Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol. 2001 Dec;22(12):776-80.

Epidemiology of biological-exposure incidents among Spanish healthcare workers.

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Hospital Ramón y Cajal, Madrid, Spain.



To determine the frequency and the epidemiological characteristics of biological-exposure incidents occurring among healthcare personnel.


Prospective surveillance study.


Participating Spanish primary-care and specialty centers from January 1994 to December 1997.


70 centers in 1994, 87 in 1995, 97 in 1996, and 104 in 1997.


Absolute and relative frequencies were calculated for several variables (position held, area of care, type of injuring object, activity, etc) and for the different categories of each variable.


There were 20,235 registered incidents. Annual incidence rates were as follows: 1994, 51 per 1,000; 1995, 58 per 1,000, 1996, 54 per 1,000; and 1997, 59 per 1,000. Mean age of accident victims was as follows: 1994, 35.68 (standard deviation [SD], 16.26); 1995, 33.6 (SD, 11.9); 1996,38.2 (SD, 17.27); and 1997, 36.7 (SD, 16.33) years. Of the 20,235 incidents, 15,860 (80.7%) occurred to women; 50% (9,833) accidents were among nursing staff. The type of incident most frequently reported was percutaneous injury (81.1%). The highest frequency of accidents was seen in medical and surgical areas (28% and 25.6%, respectively). Blood and blood products were the most commonly involved material (87.6%). Administration of intramuscular or intravenous medication was the activity associated with the highest accident rate (20.3%). The most frequent immediate action in response was rinsing and disinfecting (65.6%).


The incident registry was highly stable in terms of incidence rates over the observation period and served to highlight the large number of incidents recorded each year. The potential implications of the results are the need to explore reasons for increased exposures in certain areas, with the aim of focusing prevention efforts, and, similarly, to establish the factors associated with diminished incidence rates to model successful measures.

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