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Foodservice workers: HIV+ & Hepititis B or C.
Oct 7, 1998

We work with people who are infected with HIV/AIDS in Oklahoma. We have not found a difinitive answer regarding inividuals who are HIV+ and have been diagnosed with Hepititis B &/or C. We have contacted health agencies but answers vary. Is there any reason they should not or can not work in food service with B &/or C? Is one more contagious or transmitted easier than the other?

Response from Ms. Breuer

Of the three bloodborne pathogens you name, HIV is the hardest to transmit. B and C are easier, but there is no history of their being transmitted by food, which is really the question here. I know of no reason why an individual infected with HIV, hepatitis B or hepatitis C--or all three--should not work in food service. As with every food service worker, the rules of safe food handling should always apply, and any food service worker who gets cut should follow strict guidelines about avoiding blood contamination of food. But these bloodborne pathogens do not travel as foodborne illnesses. Hepatitis A can be foodborne, as you probably know, but that is not a bloodborne pathogen.

Here is the only data I have about the relative transmissability of the three, and it relates to needlesticks among health care workers, not food service workers. But it gives you a good idea of the numbers. It's a CDC estimate released on 8/10/98:

800,000 health care workers will be injured by patient needles this year. 2000 will test positive for new infections with hepatitis C. 400 will get hepatitis B. 35 will contract HIV. Hepatitis C is ten times more likely to be transmitted this way than HIV.

I'm concerned that the answers you collected among health agencies varied, and I hope my answer matches the answer you might have received from the Oklahoma Public Health Service. Please let me know if it does not. (The answer from them should come from their specialist in infectious diseases or bloodborne pathogens.)

Nancy Breuer



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