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Study: Urologists at increased risk for exposure to HIV and hepatitis C when performing procedures on veterans

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Hepatitis C virus (HCV) and HIV infections are seven and 10 times more prevalent in veterans compared to the general population, respectively, leading to an increased risk of exposure for doctors and operating room staff performing urological procedures on this patient population, according to an Emory University School of Medicine study.

Researchers also found that urologists are at risk for exposure to HCV in every 10 procedures, and to HIV one in every 38 procedures performed on veterans. The study, "The Prevalence and Exposure Risk of Hepatitis C and HIV Infection in Urological Procedures," was presented at the 2012 American Urological Association’s annual meeting on May 21.

"What this study shows is that there is a huge need for heightened awareness of hepatitis C and HIV, especially in the veteran population," says principal investigator Muta Issa, MD, associate professor of urology at Emory University School of Medicine and chief of urology at Atlanta Veterans Affairs Medical Center. "Many people with hepatitis C and HIV are unaware of their condition, so they inadvertently expose others to these infectious diseases or delay treatment because they don’t know they need it."

During the 12-month study period, 1,907 diagnostic and therapeutic urological procedures were performed on 1,282 patients at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center. in Atlanta. Of the 1,282 patients offered screening, 1,028 consented for HCV testing and 1,030 consented for HIV testing. The prevalence of HCV, both new and known, was 9.3 percent, which is seven times the reported prevalence in the general population. The prevalence of HIV, both new and known, was 2.6 percent, which is nearly 10 times the reported prevalence of the general population.

"This is a particularly timely study because the CDC has just released guidelines recommending that all baby boomers be tested for hepatitis C due to increasing prevalence and low awareness," says Issa. "It is time for us to consider screening for all patients undergoing surgical procedures so that we can diagnose and treat the disease early."

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