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Infection control linked to hepatitis B in care homes

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Outbreaks of hepatitis B in residential care homes are often caused by serious breakdowns in infection control procedures, investigations have revealed.

Five incidents of onward transmission of hepatitis B occurred in residential care homes between 2004 and 2007.

The Health Protection Agency is now preparing new guidance for blood-glucose testing in residential care homes.

Agency advice is that when monitoring blood-glucose levels, staff should use either disposable single-use lancing devices, or a non-disposable lancing device that has been specifically designed for use on multiple patients.

Dr Erika Duffell, a consultant with the HPA in Manchester, said hepatitis B was particularly dangerous for elderly people as it has a higher mortality rate. She attributed the outbreaks to careless practise.

‘It is suspected that transmission in these incidents resulted from staff incorrectly using individual patient finger-stick lancet devices for blood-glucose testing. Cross contamination is likely to have occurred during this process,’ she said

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