Paramedics and other emergency health workers are exposed to infectious disease particularly when undertaking exposure-prone procedures as a component of their everyday practice. This study examined paramedic knowledge of infectious disease aetiology and transmission in the pre-hospital care environment.Methods
A mail survey of paramedics from an Australian ambulance service (n=2274) was conducted.Results
With a response rate of 55.3% (1258/2274), the study demonstrated that paramedic knowledge of infectious disease aetiology and modes of transmission was poor. Of the 25 infectious diseases included in the survey, only three aetiological agents were correctly identified by at least 80% of respondents. The most accurate responses for aetiology of individual infectious diseases were for HIV/AIDS (91.4%), influenza (87.4%), and hepatitis B (85.7%). Poorest results were observed for pertussis, infectious mononucleosis, leprosy, dengue fever, Japanese B encephalitis and vancomycin resistant enterococcus (VRE), all with less than half the sample providing a correct response. Modes of transmission of significant infectious diseases were also assessed. Most accurate responses were found for HIV/AIDS (85.8%), salmonella (81.9%) and influenza (80.1%). Poorest results were observed for infectious mononucleosis, diphtheria, shigella, Japanese B encephalitis, vancomycin resistant enterococcus, meningococcal meningitis, rubella and infectious mononucleosis, with less than a third of the sample providing a correct response.Conclusion
Results suggest that knowledge of aetiology and transmission of infectious disease is generally poor amongst paramedics. A comprehensive in-service education infection control programs for paramedics with emphasis on infectious disease aetiology and transmission is recommended.