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Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol. 1995 Apr;16(4):194-7.

Occupational risk of human immunodeficiency virus, hepatitis B virus, and hepatitis C virus infections among funeral service practitioners in Maryland.

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Department of Environmental Health Science, Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health, Baltimore 21205-2179, USA.



To estimate the risk of exposure and infection with bloodborne pathogens, a seroepidemiologic survey was conducted among funeral service practitioners (FSPs) in Maryland.


Of 262 members of the Maryland State Funeral Directors Association, 130 (49%) volunteered to participate in the study. In addition to a brief questionnaire, designed to assess both occupational and non-occupational risk factors for bloodborne pathogen infection, participants were screened for markers of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), and past hepatitis B virus (HBV). Titers for antibodies to hepatitis B surface antigen (anti-HBs) also were examined and compared with history of hepatitis B vaccination.


Seroprevalence for HIV, HBV, and HCV infection was 0.8%, 4.6%, and 0%, respectively. Nearly 19% of participants reported at least one bloodborne exposure in the past 6 months. The one HIV infection and all but two of the HBV infections were correlated with well-established non-occupational risk behaviors. Disposable gloves were worn by 96%, and eating, drinking, or smoking during embalming were infrequent. Sixty-one percent of FSPs reported having received one or more doses of hepatitis B vaccine at some time in the past. Of those who reported having received all three doses of vaccine, 67% had adequate titers to hepatitis B surface antibody, the marker of protection related to vaccination.


Compared with prior studies of FSPs, this study found a low rate of occupational exposures and a high rate of hepatitis B vaccination, suggesting improved compliance with recommendations for preventing transmission of bloodborne pathogens in the workplace.

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