New CDC Guidance for Healthcare Personnel Exposed to HCV

Jennifer Garcia

July 23, 2020

New guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) outline a "test and treat" strategy for healthcare personnel (HCP) with potential occupational exposure to hepatitis C virus (HCV).

The new guidance was developed in part as a result of an increase in the incidence of acute HCV infection in the United States, which increases the risk for occupational exposure among HCP. "[I]n certain health care settings, HCP might be exposed to source patients with early HCV infection before those patients develop serologic evidence of infection or symptoms indicative of viral hepatitis," write the authors of the report, published online today in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The guidelines, which no longer recommend waiting for spontaneous resolution upon initial diagnosis, include recommendations and algorithms for baseline and follow-up testing, appropriate test type, and recommendations for clinical management. The recommendations were developed on the basis of a current literature review, expert opinion from subject matter experts, and recent guidance from the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD) and the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA).

Baseline Testing ASAP

Baseline testing of the source patient and the HCP should be performed as soon as possible, preferably within 48 hours of exposure. The source patient should be tested for HCV RNA using a nucleic acid test. Alternatively, screening anti-HCV serology can be performed in patients at low risk for HCV and a nucleic acid test performed if serology is positive.

Baseline testing for the HCP should include anti-HCV testing and, if positive, HCV RNA testing is recommended. HCPs who test positive for HCV RNA at baseline are considered to have a preexisting HCV infection and should be referred for treatment.

Follow-up Testing

For HCPs with exposure to blood or body fluids from a patient who is anti-HCV positive but HCV RNA negative, follow-up testing is not required.

If the source patient is HCV RNA positive, or if status of the source patient is unknown, the authors recommend that exposed HCPs have HCV RNA follow-up testing at 3 to 6 weeks postexposure, in addition to baseline testing. A final anti-HCV test is recommended at 4 to 6 months postexposure as there can be potential periods of aviremia during acute HCV infection.

Exposed HCPs who develop signs of illness indicative of HCV infection at any time should be tested for HCV RNA.

HCPs with positive HCV RNA test results should be referred for care and curative antiviral therapy.

Postexposure Prophylaxis Is Not Recommended

Recent data have shown that the risk for HCV infection from percutaneous exposure is 0.2% and from mucocutaneous exposure is 0%. On the basis of this information, the CDC guidelines do not recommend routine postexposure prophylaxis for HCPs with occupational exposure to HCV. Rather, curative antiviral regimens should be reserved for instances of documented HCV transmission.

The authors have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

MMWR. Published online July 23, 2020. Full text

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