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Infections Contracted from Exposure to Healthcare Waste

Hep B virus

Safe handling of medical waste isn’t only a legal requirement. It’s also necessary to protect healthcare facility workers and patients from exposure to infectious pathogens that cause disease.

 Medical waste houses a number of pathogenic microorganisms. If it’s not stored and handled correctly, these dangerous pathogens may enter the body.

  • Via any break in the skin barrier such as puncture wound, cut or abrasion
  • Via the mucosa of the nose, mouth and other body openings
  • Though inhalation
  • By ingestion
We’ve listed a few examples of infections that can be contracted by incorrect medical waste disposal. There are others but these are the most common.
  • Gastroenteric…spreads via vomitus or feces, often on unwashed hands
  • Respiratory…spread by inhalation or saliva
  • Eye infections…spread via eye secretions often on unwashed hands
  • Skin infections…often from dirty dressings
  • AIDS…from blood on sharps
  • Hepatitis B and C…from blood and body fluids

Those most at risk of contracting these diseases from incorrectly disposed of medical waste include:

  • Doctors and nursing staff
  • Laboratory technicians
  • Patients in the healthcare facilities
  • Visitors to the facilities
  • Workers supporting these healthcare facilities such as those in garbage disposal, cleaning staff and laundry personnel

 The only way to eliminate the risks of being exposed to pathogens is to correctly handle waste and to educate all concerned.