Those who work in veterinary clinics make up part of the more than eight million health care workers in the United States. About 300,000 to 400,000 needle stick and other percutaneous injuries are reported each year, but it is estimated that this represents only about half of such injuries that actually occur.
These injuries expose workers to bloodborne pathogens that can cause infections. Some infections, such as those associated with hepatitis B virus, hepatitis C virus, or human immunodeficiency virus, are potentially life threatening.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reminds health care employers and workers that the number of needle stick injuries can be reduced by implementing a safety protocol. Among the recommendations:
- Eliminate the use of needles when safe and effective alternatives are available.
- Use devices with safety features and evaluate their use to determine those that are most effective and acceptable.
- Avoid replacing the ap on needles.
- Plan for safe handling and disposal before beginning any procedure that involves the use of needles.
- Ensure that health care workers are properly trained in safe methods for use and disposal of needles.
- Report all injuries from needle sticks and other sharp objects and instruments promptly to ensure appropriate followup care.
For more information and guidelines to help prevent needle stick injuries in health care settings, contact the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, (800) 356-4674 or visit their Web site.