Changes to the CDC’s Post-Exposure Protocols Involving Bloodborne Illnesses
Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its guidance on post-exposure protocols for healthcare providers exposed to blood. These updates are made in response to the rising risk of Hepatitis C infection in a clinical setting. Whenever the CDC updates its guidance on disease management, it often means that new compliance training should be scheduled to ensure that all relevant parties are made aware of the changes.
Here are the key things that you need to know:
What has the CDC Changed?
The post-exposure protocols for bloodborne illnesses guide laboratories in testing healthcare providers who either have been exposed or suspect they have been exposed to fluids from a patient with a bloodborne infection.
The new update touches on three key aspects of the post-exposure protocols:
- It allows antibody testing four to six months past exposure.
- It includes guidance from other professional organizations recommending treatment for infections
- It updates laboratory testing guidelines for patients who are the source of the infection.
How Does it Impact Testing?
The CDC has modified testing for individuals who have been exposed to bloodborne infections in a couple of critical ways.
One of the most significant changes is in regards to the preferred testing for identifying infections like Hepatitis C. The new guidance reveals that labs should first test for RNA, as this is more accurate when identifying infections, and then look at whether antibodies have been developed against the disease.
Additionally, if someone has already been tested three weeks after exposure (according to the old guidance), they now should plan to be retested four to six months after their suspected exposure. The dynamics of bloodborne infections can sometimes lead to false negatives during the first few weeks due to viral remission. Retesting health care providers four to six months later allows for additional certainty regarding a negative test.
How Does it Impact Treatment Protocols?
No updates have been given regarding the treatment protocols for infections like Hepatitis C. The CDC has provided guidance elsewhere regarding exposure prevention and treatment, and those should continue to be followed.
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