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Universal precautions and mortuary practitioners: influence on practices and risk of occupationally acquired infection


Embalming, the most common funeral practice in the United States, may expose the embalmer to infectious diseases and blood. We surveyed the 860 members of the National Selected Morticians in 1988 to estimate the incidence of self-reported occupational contact with blood and infectious disease, assess morticians’ knowledge of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), determine their adherence to universal precautions, and identify predictors of practices designed to reduce risk of occupational exposure to infections. Of 539 (63%) respondents, 212 (39%) reported needle-stick injuries in the past 12 months, and 15 (3%) reported percutaneous exposures to the blood of a decedent with AIDS. Those rating the risk of occupationally acquired human immunodeficiency virus infection as very high or high (194/539 [36%]) were more likely to decline funerals of decedents with antemortem diagnosis of AIDS (59/194 [30%]) and/or to charge more for such funerals (133/194 [69%]) than those who rated the risk as low to moderate (31/345 [9%], 174/135 [51%]).

Beck-Sagué CM, Jarvis WR, Fruehling JA, Ott CE, Higgins MT, Bates FL

J Occup Med 1991 Aug;33(8):874-8

PMID: 1941282