Needle mix up may have led to infection spread at Amsterdam clinic

Tuesday March 28 2017

A needle contamination incident may have led to as many as 60 people being infected with HIV or hepatitis C at a clinic in Amsterdam, a new report reveals.

The NL Times reports that poor needle safety standards at GGD Amsterdam saw dozens of people have their blood sugar levels checked with sharps equipment that may have already been used on other patients. This carries the risk of the cross contamination of blood, which is a major risk associated with improper sharps safety practices.

The mishandling of needles in this way can lead to the spread of potentially life-threatening blood-borne infections such as hepatitis C and HIV if a needle is used on a patient with one of these conditions before being used on someone else.

In the GGD Amsterdam case, spokesperson Martin Hommenga stated that "it is a very small chance" that anyone has been infected, but all patients who had their blood sugar levels checked as part of a glucose test at the clinic between January 19th and March 16th 2017 are being urged to get themselves tested for HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C.

Early detection and treatment of these illnesses is key to prevent further health complications, while undergoing a test as soon as possible can also help to put people's minds at rest and prevent them from passing an infection to a sexual partner.

The Netherlands' Healthcare Inspectorate is now investigating exactly what occurred at GGD Amsterdam to present this risk, but the clinic states that it purchased the wrong device for performing glucose tests. A machine specially designed to test the blood of multiple patients in a safe and hygienic way was meant to be ordered, but instead a disposable version was purchased. 

The equipment that arrived was designed to be disposed of after one use, as all sharps equipment should be, but instead healthcare workers simply fitted new needles to the device, meaning some blood could have remained on the machine when being used on other patients.

Not only does this incident highlight the importance of double checking that correct equipment is being used at all times, it also emphasizes how valuable sharps safety devices that prevent needles from being used more than once can be. These specialist devices also stop the use of broken needles, further increasing standards of sharps safety.
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