As I discussed in my blog post a few days ago, needlestick injuries are a reality in the workplace. Over 1,000 occur each day in hospitals across the United States. What do you do if a needlestick injury happens to you?
1. Immediately wash the affected area with soap and water
2. Report the incident to your supervisor. Make sure the details of the incident are well documented.
3. Seek Medical Attention. You will need to have baseline labs drawn to test for Hepatitis B, C and HIV. You will also need to have these tests repeated 6 weeks, 3 months, 6 months and 12 months after the injury as blood bourne infections are often not detected for months after exposure. If your Hepatitis B vaccine is not up to date, you should get a Hepatitis B vaccine within 24 hours of the incident. If your tetanus vaccine is not current, it should be updated as well.
4. Consider post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) treatment. PEP treatment can be initiated to prevent the transmission of HIV post-exposure. The PEP regimen involves taking multiple HIV medications over the course of 28 days and must be initiated immediately after exposure, ideally within 24 hours. The CDC suggests that most needlestick injuries do not require PEP and that PEP should only be used in high risk injuries. If you work in a hospital, they may be able to do a rapid HIV test on the patient whose bodily fluids you have been exposed to to help determine the necessity of PEP therapy.
The CDC provides excellent resources for medical providers addressing needlestick and sharps injuries. The best way to handle needlestick injuries is always prevention! Make sure you are taking steps to prevent needlestick and sharps injuries in your workplace. Support the Needlestick Safety Movement by signing the Needlestick Safety Pledge.