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Use of protective gear and the occurrence of occupational Marburg hemorrhagic fever in health workers from Watsa health zone, Democratic Republic of the Congo

Background. Occupational transmission to health workers (HWs) has been a typical feature of Marburg hemorrhagic fever (MHF) outbreaks. The goal of this study was to identify cases of occupational MHF in HWs from Durba and Watsa, Democratic Republic of the Congo; to assess levels of exposure and protection; and to explore reasons for inconsistent use of protective gear.

Methods. A serosurvey of 48 HWs who cared for patients with MHF was performed. In addition, HWs were given a questionnaire on types of exposure, use of protective gear, and symptoms after contact. Informal and indepth interviews with HWs were also performed.

Results. We found 1 HW who was seropositive for MHF, in addition to 5 cases of occupational MHF known beforehand; 4 infections had occurred after the introduction of infection control. HWs protected themselves better during invasive procedures (injections, venipuncture, and surgery) than during noninvasive procedures, but the overall level of protection in the hospital remained insufficient, particularly outside of isolation wards. The reasons for inconsistent use of protective gear included insufficient availability of the gear, adherence to traditional explanatory models of the origin of disease, and peer bonding with sick colleagues.

Conclusions. Infection control must not focus too exclusively on the establishment of isolation wards but should aim at improving overall hospital hygiene. Training of HWs should allow them to voice and discuss their doubts and prepare them for the peculiarities of caring for ill colleagues.

Reference: Borchert, M., Mulangu, S., Lefèvre, P., Tshomba, A., Libande, M., Kulidri, A., Muyembe‐Tamfum, J. and Van der Stuyft, P. (2007). Use of Protective Gear and the Occurrence of Occupational Marburg Hemorrhagic Fever in Health Workers from Watsa Health Zone, Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Journal of Infectious Diseases, 196(s2), pp.S168-S175.