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Needle Stick Injuries
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
Needle stick injuries usually happen to healthcare workers in hospitals, clinics, and labs. Needle stick injuries can also happen at home or in the community if needles are not discarded properly. Used needles may have blood or body fluids that carry HIV, the hepatitis B virus (HBV), or the hepatitis C virus (HCV). The virus can spread to a person who gets pricked by a needle used on an infected person.
Ways that needle stick injuries can occur:
Needle stick injuries usually happen by accident. Needles may cause injury to you or to someone else if they were not properly discarded after use. An injury can also occur if you do not use gloves to protect your hands while you work with needles.
Treatment that may be given for needle stick injuries:
Postexposure prophylaxis (PEP) may be needed. PEP is treatment that may protect a person from infection after exposure to another person's body fluids. PEP may be needed if the person whose fluids you were exposed to has a known infection. Do not donate blood, organs, tissues, or semen until your follow-up is completed at 6 months.
- PEP for HBV may include HBV vaccinations or medicine to prevent HBV. This treatment works best if started within 24 hours of exposure.
- PEP for HIV may include 2 or 3 types of medicine to prevent HIV. This treatment works best if started within 72 hours of exposure. Continue treatment for 4 weeks. Practice safe sex to prevent spreading HIV and to prevent pregnancy during the follow-up period. If you are breastfeeding, your healthcare provider may recommend that you stop. Ask your healthcare provider if you can breastfeed.
- PEP for HCV is not available. You will need to be tested for HCV and treated if you were infected.
Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:
You will need more blood tests. You will also need to make sure your medicines are working. PEP for HIV often causes side effects. Talk with your healthcare provider about your symptoms. He will need to make sure you are taking the medicine correctly. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.
Prevent needle stick injuries:
- Always use gloves when you handle needles that are exposed to blood or other body fluids. You may want to use 2 pairs of gloves for extra protection.
- Do not recap needles after use. Recapping needles increases your risk for a needle stick.
- Throw away needles in a safe container. A hard container with a lid may prevent accidental needle sticks.
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