FDA and CDC are alerting healthcare professionals about the risks of transmitting hepatitis B virus (HBV) and other infectious diseases when monitoring blood glucose.
In recent years, the FDA and CDC have seen an increase in reported HBV outbreaks associated with monitoring blood glucose. That is especially the case in long-term care settings, such as nursing homes and assisted living facilities, where residents often need someone to help monitor their blood glucose levels.
But this risk exists in any setting where blood glucose monitoring equipment is shared, or where those performing the monitoring do not follow basic infection control practices. This includes acute care facilities, as well as clinics, health fairs, shelters, detention facilities, senior centers, schools, and camps.
Reusable fingerstick lancing devices should never be used for more than one person to avoid the risk of transmitting bloodborne pathogens. But the glucose meters themselves can also pose an infection risk because it is hard to ensure that blood has been completely removed from these devices. For example, a multicenter survey published in 2005 showed that 30 percent of blood glucose meters used routinely in the surveyed hospitals had detectable blood on their surfaces.
So FDA and CDC recommend that whenever possible, blood glucose meters should be used for one patient only. If that is not possible, clean and disinfect the meters after every use according to the meter’s labeling to prevent carry-over of blood and infectious agents. Even when following these precautions, be sure to wash hands and change gloves between patients. It is also important to remember that these recommendations apply to other point-of-care testing devices, such as PT/INR anticoagulation meters and cholesterol testing devices.