Tests for hospital patients where worker has HIV
HSE says 63 to get 'precautionary' screenings
THE Health Service Executive (HSE) will tomorrow ask 63 patients to attend a screening in Mayo General Hospital after it emerged a health worker was diagnosed with HIV.
However, the HSE stressed that the risk of infection to patients was very low and said the tests were precautionary.
According to a 2005 HSE report on preventing blood-borne diseases, there have only been two incidents worldwide of health workers transmitting HIV to a patient.
Patients affected will be contacted through their GPs and the HSE will also send a letter to those they want to attend the screening in the hospital.
A spokeswoman said: "HSE West can confirm that 63 patients will be asked to attend a screening this week as a result of a diagnosis of HIV in a healthcare worker who worked at Mayo General Hospital.
"The risk to patients is extremely low, however screening is good practice and is being undertaken as a precautionary measure.
"The GPs of those affected are being telephoned on Monday morning to make arrangements for their patients to be tested and letters to those patients will also be sent on Monday."
She added: "International research identifies the risk of transmission as extremely unlikely."
Similar investigations in the UK over the past 20 years, which tested 10,000 patients, have never identified a case of HIV infection from a healthcare worker.
The UK's health department recommends all new healthcare workers who will carry out exposure-prone procedures should be tested and shown to be free from infection with HIV and hepatitis B and C.
However, guidance for the prevention of transmission of blood-borne diseases issued by the Department of Health here does not recommend screening for healthcare workers for HIV.
This is highlighted in the HSE report, The Prevention of Transmission of Blood-borne Diseases in the Health-Care Setting (2005).
It states: "As there is still as yet no vaccine available to protect against HIV infection, the policy for protecting healthcare workers and patients from HIV continues to rely on good general infection control procedures.
"Mandatory screening for HIV is not recommended on the basis of the low levels of risk involved."
The Health Service Executive said that this guidance was currently under review by the Department.
They also stated that all healthcare employees have an obligation to inform their employer if they may have contracted a blood-borne virus.