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CDC Releases National Needlestick Estimates

 by Jane Perry
International Health Care Worker Safety Center
University of Virginia


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) presented results of a study estimating the annual number of percutaneous injuries (PI) to U.S. hospital-based health care workers at a conference in March 2000. The estimates were based on combined data from two sources: the CDC’s National Surveillance System for Hospital Health Care Workers (NaSH) database, and the Exposure Prevention Information Network (EPINet) database coordinated by the International Health Care Worker Safety Center (IHCWSC) at the University of Virginia.

The CDC’s estimate of 384,325 annual PIs for health care workers in hospitals is higher than earlier figures developed by the IHCWSC. IHCWSC had estimated 295,082 annual PIs to hospital-based health care workers based on 1996 EPINet data, using a 39% underreporting rate. It then doubled this number based on an estimate that as many as half of all health care workers are employed outside of hospitals, to obtain a figure of 590,164 annual PIs for both hospital and non-hospital health care workers nationwide. The CDC did not include an estimate for health care workers outside of hospital settings. The underreporting rate used in the CDC study, 56.58%, was based on survey data from NaSH hospitals.

The CDC estimate was based on 1997 and 1998 data from 15 NaSH hospitals, and 1997 data from 45 EPINet hospitals. Because the EPINet and NaSH networks use similar data collection instruments, it was possible to combine the two data sources. EPINet hospitals tend to be smaller than NaSH hospitals—the average number of beds is 315, compared to 592 for NaSH hospitals—and are concentrated in the southeast and northwest, whereas NaSH hospitals are more scattered regionally, with a number located in the northeast.

The report was presented by Adelisa Panlilio, M.D., and colleagues at the International Conference on Nosocomial and Healthcare-Associated Infections, held in Atlanta in March 2000. Dr. Panlilio, a medical edpidemiologist with the CDC’s Hospital Infections Program, commented: "We’re hoping that by combining the two data sets and our different hospitals that participate in them, we may get a more representative picture [of needlesticks nationally]."

(from Advances in Exposure Prevention, 2000, Vol. 5, No. 2, p.19.) r