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Open Access Research article

Seroprevalence of hepatitis B and C virus infections among health students and health care workers in the Najran region, southwestern Saudi Arabia: The need for national guidelines for health students

Jobran M Alqahtani1, Saeed A Abu-Eshy2, Ahmed A Mahfouz3*, Awad A El-Mekki4 and Ahmed M Asaad5

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Child Health, College of Medicine, Najran University, Najran, Saudi Arabia

2 Department of Surgery, College of Medicine, Najran University, Najran, Saudi Arabia

3 Department of Family and Community Medicine, College of Medicine, King Khalid University, Abha, P.O. Box 641, Saudi Arabia

4 Department of Clinical Microbiology, College of Medicine, King Khalid University, Abha, Saudi Arabia

5 Departments of Microbiology, College of Medicine, Najran University, Najran, Saudi Arabia

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BMC Public Health 2014, 14:577  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-577

Published: 9 June 2014

Abstract

Background

The objectives of the study were to study the seroprevalence of hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections among health college students (HS) and health care workers (HCWs) in the Najran Region of south-western Saudi Arabia and to study the students’ knowledge of occupational exposure to blood-borne viral infections.

Methods

A cross-sectional study of a representative sample of 300 HS and 300 HCWs was conducted.

Results

An overall seroprevalence of HBV of 1.7% and 8.7% was found among HS and HCWs, respectively. Two-thirds of HS (66.7%, 200) and 23.3% (70) of HCWs lack anti-HBs and are susceptible to HBV infection. An overall seroprevalence of HCV of 0% and 0.3% was found among the HS and HCWs, respectively. The present study indicates poor knowledge among HS and moderate knowledge among HCWs regarding occupationally transmitted blood-borne diseases, safe injection practices, and standard precautions to prevent occupationally transmitted blood-borne infections.

Conclusion

It is mandatory to develop a structured program to raise awareness among HS, and current health colleges’ curricula should be upgraded to address these issues early. The HS should be considered new recruits to health services in terms of their initial screening for blood-borne infections and vaccination against HBV. The development of a novel continuing medical education and pre-employment awareness program for HCWs is recommended to address the following: blood-borne diseases transmitted occupationally, standard precautions to prevent occupationally transmitted blood borne infections, and safe injection practices.

Keywords:
HBV; HCV; HCW; Health Students; Saudi Arabia