Nearly 400,000 Accidental
Needle Sticks To US
Health Workers Yearly

ATLANTA (Reuters) - US health-care workers suffer almost 400,000 needle-stick injuries every year that could expose them to bloodborne viruses, risking infection from diseases including hepatitis B and C and AIDS, researchers told a conference on infections in hospitals on Tuesday.
Based on data from 60 large US hospitals, researchers concluded that about 384,000 needle-stick or similar injuries occur among health-care workers in hospitals every year.
The study, conducted by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), was presented to the International Conference on Nosocomial and Health-Care-Associated Infections meeting in Atlanta. ''Nosocomial'' means ``originating in a hospital.''
The study did not attempt to estimate how many workers become infected because of their injuries.
A 1995 study estimated that 600,000 to 800,000 needle-stick injuries occurred among health-care workers every year. The CDC researchers said that their new estimate did not include health-care workers outside the hospital setting.
``Although our estimate is smaller than some previously published estimates,'' the researchers said, ``its magnitude remains a concern and emphasizes the urgent need to implement prevention strategies.''
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health said last year that most reported needle-stick injuries involved nursing staff, but laboratory staff, physicians, housekeepers and other health-care workers were also injured.
Needle-stick injuries can expose health-care workers to hepatitis B, hepatitis C and AIDS, NIOSH said.
NIOSH recommends that health-care workers avoid using needles when alternatives are available and that they promptly report any injuries from needles or other sharp objects to ensure that they receive appropriate treatment.
A study of 18 Italian hospitals presented at the conference found that nurses working in general surgery or general medicine were the most likely to suffer a needle-stick injury. Physicians were the least likely to be exposed. University of Sao Paulo researchers who studied a Brazilian hospital in 1998 found that health-care workers often recapped needles after they were used despite recommendations not to.
Two-thirds of needles that had been disposed of at the hospital had been recapped, suggesting that workers were putting themselves at unnecessary risk of exposure to bloodborne pathogens.


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