Over 1,100 patients across Worcestershire and Birmingham have received letter about the warning that they may be at risk of HIV or Hepatitis B after a healthcare worker was diagnosed with the infections.

The name and gender of the health worker is not known but it is known that he/she has worked in four hospitals in the West Midlands over the last six years and all the patients who came to contact with the worker have been informed about their risks.

Letters received 71 patients treated at Evesham Community Hospital, 62 at Kidderminster Hospital, 430 at the Alexandra Hospital in Redditch and 590 at the Orthopaedic Hospital in Birmingham.

Both Hepatitis B and HIV are caused by viruses carried in blood and other bodily fluids and spread if a person came in contact with the fluids of an infected person. The risk of an infected healthcare worker passing the infections to a patient is very small but still exists. This is why it is recommended for patients who received the letters to test and make sure they are ok.

There haven’t been any similar cases in the UK until now in which a healthcare worker was infected with both HIV and Hepatitis B.
Those who have tested so far came out negative to both diseases and health experts believe others will too.

The health worker was unaware of the infections and had no symptoms and the infections were found during regular yearly testing.

According to the national guidelines, every worker needs to be screened for hepatitis B when employed by the NHS. Unfortunately, there is no such rule for HIV. Draft guidance dated from 2003 that hasn’t been implemented yet requires medical staff to demonstrate immunity to HIV. For the time being, they are only asked if they fell in a high risk category for the virus. If the answer is positive, they are being tested for the virus. The tests are done only once and are not repeated regularly during the employment.

Health workers from the NHS West Midlands are doing everything to track patients who may be at risk. They have expressed their concern about the distress and anxiety felt by those patients contacted and have set up a confidential helpline to offer advice and support.