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Needlesticks rising on Sunshine Coast

September 03, 2015

There is a worrying number of people suffering needlestick injuries on the Sunshine Coast, a new report has suggested.

Almost every week someone sustains a percutaneous injury from a discarded needle in the area, highlighting the importance of ensuring that hospitals practice good sharps safety and spread this message into the community. 

A report from the Daily Mercury found that 69 people were injured between January 2014 and June 2015, according to data from the Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service (SCHHS). Although not all instances led to exposure of bloodborne pathogens like HIV or hepatitis B and C, some did.

SCHHS clinical services executive director Kerrie Hayes said needle-stick injuries were recorded quantitatively and 55 of the presentation causes had been listed as "not specified". 

Queensland Health urges people who have sustained a needlestick injury to cover the wound and seek medical attention as soon as possible. This is crucial as some medications and vaccinations can be more effective if taken soon after exposure. Timing is also important for testing for HIV, hepatitis B or hepatitis C testing.

It is also advised that people don't panic as the risk of catching a serious infection as a result of an accidental needlestick injury is low as viruses can not survive for long outside the body.

A Sunshine Coast Council spokeswoman said syringes were not commonly found in the area, and reports were scarce. However, there has been cases of people standing on them in the past year.

"[The] Council has formal procedures to mitigate and manage syringes on council and public land, including collection of sharps containers, disposal of sharps and notification of needle programs," she said.

"The majority of public toilets are fitted with sharps disposal containers and these are serviced regularly by contractors and staff.

"Beaches and parks with high visitor numbers are cleaned twice per week and others with fewer visitors are cleaned periodically."

Instances like this help raise the profile of the danger of needlesticks and should encourage both hospitals and locals in the community to be vocal about sharps safety. Often comma people make a situation worse because they are not educated about what to do in the situation.

There are various steps that hospitals can take to ensure the local community are prepared for needlestick injuries, which reduce the risk of bloodborne pathogens spreading.

Hospitals can offer a safe place for people to hand in their needles, while managers can go into the community into schools or workplaces to speak about what to do should someone find a needle or be injured by one.

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