At least 28 medical workers were infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV) between 1996 and 1998 after they accidentally pricked their fingers with syringe needles used on HCV-positive patients, a Health and Welfare Ministry survey showed Tuesday.

The survey was conducted on some 360 hospitals across the nation designated by the ministry as “core hospitals” for treating people with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

According to Kiyoshi Kidouchi, head of the pediatrics department at Higashi Municipal Hospital of Nagoya, there were 15,100 accidents at the surveyed hospitals in which nurses and doctors accidentally injured themselves with used syringe needles.

Kidouchi, who has analyzed 11,800 of the accidents, said the average annual occurrence rate of such accidents was four cases per 100 beds, deemed high compared with foreign countries.

Of the cases, 31 percent happened while the syringes were being used on patients, while 26 percent took place afterward when medical workers were trying to cap the syringes, he said.

Of the 11,800 cases analyzed by Kidouchi, 7,708 involved patients infected with HCV, followed by 1,862 involving patients with hepatitis B virus (HBV) and 88 involving HIV-positive people.

However, there were no reports of medical workers being infected with HBV or HIV following the accidents.

“The current situation in Japan is similar to the one in the United States before that country started taking countermeasures” such as adopting syringes modified to prevent accidents, Kidouchi said.

The Nagoya hospital introduced similar syringes and other countermeasures in 1993, leading accidents to decrease to one-tenth of their previous level, but only a few other hospitals in Japan are taking measures to deal with the problem, he said.

Dysentery hits three

KYOTO (Kyodo) A mother and her two teenage children from Kyoto were diagnosed as suffering from dysentery after returning from a trip to Bali, officials said Tuesday.

The officials identified them as a 40-year-old woman and her 14-year-old daughter and 13-year-old son, residents of Kyoto’s Fushimi Ward.

They visited the popular Indonesian island between April 9 and Sunday, the officials said, adding that the first symptoms of the illness appeared last Thursday.