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Needlestick Injury

How Big Are the Risks?


The reality is that many healthcare workers endure accidental needlestick injury every year. The CDC estimates that almost 400 000 healthcare workers are injured in this way annually. This can lead to a lot of stress and fear of contracting a bloodborne disease such as HIV. Anyone who uses needles or handles sharps on a regular basis is at risk. This includes doctors, nurses, laboratory workers and housekeeping staff.

The risk of contracting a disease from a needlestick are actually fairly low. For instance, 1 in 300 who stick themselves with a HIV infected needle become infected. Sharing needles with an HIV infected person for drug use carries a 1 in 160 chance of contracting the disease. The chances increase if the needle has blood on it or was used for a very deep injury.

With hepatitis B, however, the incidence of contracting after an infected needlestick injury is 1 in 3 for unvaccinated people. Of course, for drug users sharing needles with an infected individual, the risks are much higher.

If you are accidently stuck with a needle, it’s important to act fast. Wash the area immediately with soap and running water. In the case of HIV, seek preventative treatment in the first 72 hours. It’s a good idea to wash out the eyes, nose and mouth with running water too.