Barrier techniques and hepatitis B vaccine policies in dental components of local health agencies.
National health organizations have issued guidelines for barrier control techniques against infectious diseases and for inoculation against hepatitis B. This study surveys the policies of local health agencies regarding the safeguards used in protecting their employees. Local health agencies (N = 201) operating independently of state health departments were mailed questionnaires seeking information regarding glove, mask, and eyewear policies, as well as hepatitis B vaccine policies for new and current employees. Of the 156 programs returning the survey, 127 (76.6%) reported having a clinical component. Many agencies did not require infection control policies to be implemented for every patient. Agencies that had dental directors who have held their positions for fewer than four years were more likely to have requirements for gloves and masks than agencies run by directors with longer tenure. Those agencies that provided dental treatment to inmates at correctional institutions were also more likely to require infection control policies. The data indicate policy inconsistencies among local dental health programs nationwide. Of considerable concern is the fact that infection control was not identified as a priority for the near future. Many local health agencies would benefit from further education in infection control.