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Accidental needle sticks are a risk for health care workers

| Apr 23, 2021 | Workplace Injuries

Workers’ compensation claims due to illnesses and injuries often lead back to a specific incident, like when a piece of machinery struck a worker in the factory. For nurses, phlebotomists and other health care professionals working in medical settings, a serious occupational illness could be something they trace back to an accidental needle stick.

A needle stick is the term used when a health care worker accidentally breaks their own skin with a needle or syringe already used in the care of a patient — possibly one with an infectious disease. Every year, approximately 385,000 health care workers experienced an accidental needle stick. For a small percentage of those workers, that incident will result in a significant illness.

What are the transmission risks in an accidental needle stick?

Just because a care worker experienced an accidental stick with a needle that has already been in contact with another person’s body, that doesn’t mean they will contract something that the other person has. First, stick transmission requires that the patient has a disease that you can transmit through blood. Even in those cases, transmission is typically rare.

Research shows that approximately 1 out of 300 workers who have an accidental stick from a needle used on someone with HIV will contract the virus. However, other illnesses are easier to transmit. If a patient has Hepatitis B and the nurse does not have that immunization, they have a one-in-three chance of contracting the disease.

Health care workers who become ill through an accidental needle stick may require both health care benefits and disability benefits through workers’ compensation insurance.