AP/Los Angeles Times Examines Efforts To End Unsafe Injection Practices That Could Spread HIV, Other Diseases
The AP/Los Angeles Times last week examined recent efforts by infection control advocates to increase awareness of unsafe injection practices that could spread HIV, hepatitis and other bloodborne diseases. According to the AP/Times, health workers typically discard needles after each use but many are not aware of the risks associated with reusing syringes. When a health worker administers an injection to someone who has HIV, hepatitis or another disease, the virus can seep back into the barrel of the syringe. Therefore, even if health workers discard the used needle, they risk transmitting the disease to a future patient if they reuse the same syringe. In addition, the worker could contaminate an entire medicine vial by drawing out medication with a used syringe.
U.S. Army officials last week announced plans to investigate unsafe insulin injection practices that might have placed 2,100 people at risk of contracting HIV or hepatitis, although no cases have been confirmed. In addition, a federal report published last month in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that more than 60,000 people were exposed to hepatitis and that at least 400 people contracted the disease in 33 outbreaks linked to safety violations between 1998 and 2008. According to the report, such violations "probably represent a much wider problem" as many cases likely go unreported. Joseph Perz, CDC researcher and co-author of the report, said some health workers reuse medicine vials to "cut corners" or save money. However, there is a "sense of outrage" among many medical providers about such practices, which represent a "breakdown in very basic patient safety," Perz said.
In response to increasing reports of such violations, some advocates have launched awareness efforts to promote knowledge of injection safety guidelines. According to the AP/Times, CDC is partnering with patient advocates on a campaign designed to inform medical workers about safe injection practices. The campaign also aims to encourage patients to learn about injection safety guidelines and report suspected violations. In addition, Perz this week will speak at a conference in Washington, D.C., involving infection control specialists and nurse anesthetists. Evelyn McKnight, who contracted hepatitis C in 2002 from a reused syringe, said her experiences led her to form an injection safety advocacy group. "I just knew that I wanted something good to come from this," she said (Tanner, AP/Los Angeles Times, 2/5).
The report is available online.