Indias trainee doctors at greatest risk of sharps injuries

Thursday March 16 2017

Medical students are more likely than qualified doctors to suffer a needlestick injury that could put their health at serious risk.

This is the finding of a new study carried out at India's Lokmanya Tilak Municipal General Hospital, which has been published in the International Journal of Current Microbiology and Applied Sciences and reported in the Hindustan Times.

Between January 2014 and June 2015, a total of 105 sharps injuries were recorded at the hospital, with almost three-quarters (70 per cent) of these suffered by medical students. 

More than one-quarter (28.6 per cent) of the reported needlestick accidents affected trainees in the medicine department, showing that it is junior doctors who are at the greatest risk of contracting hepatitis or HIV from a sharps injury in India.

However, the research also led to the discovery that a significant number of those handling needles on a regular basis had not been vaccinated against hepatitis B, meaning their risk of contracting the blood-borne condition could be heightened should a contaminated needle pierce their skin.

In total, only just over half (57.1 per cent) of healthcare workers at the Lokmanya Tilak Municipal General Hospital had been vaccinated against the infection, while 26.6 per cent had begun their injections but hadn't completed the vital course of preventative treatment.

Dr. Sujata Baveja, co-author of the study and head of the hospital's microbiology department, commented: "A lot of times, doctors don't follow the complete routine and thus become vulnerable to the infection.

"We are often so busy that even after knowing the patient is HIV or [hepatitis B] positive, we don't have the time to wear gloves while collecting blood samples, because of the workload and long queues of patients. Many times, even the patients don't inform us about their case history."

With this in mind, it is apparent that awareness of the potential dangers of a needlestick injury needs to increase among both healthcare workers and patients in order to prevent the spread of further infections in the future. Meanwhile, Indian authorities need to make sure that improved sharps safety procedures are being implemented at all hospitals in the country.

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