Needle reuse is one of the most common causes of the spread of blood borne disease — most notably the spread of hepatitis and HIV around the world.
Blood borne pathogens are often contracted through the reuse of needles and syringes. These diseases can be contracted directly when a needle or a syringe is reused or indirectly when using a single-dose medication vial more than once. Healthcare professionals are instructed to never reuse a needle or syringe and to dispose of both properly after one use.1
A Global Issue
The reuse of needles and syringes is all too common around the world.2 Each year, 16 billion injections are given in the developing world and it is estimated that 6.7 billion are done with reused equipment.3
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2000 needle reuse contributed to 22 million new infections of Hepatitis B (one-third of all infections), 2 million new infections of Hepatitis C (40 percent of all infections) and 260,000 new HIV infections (five percent of all new infections) worldwide.4
The regions most affected by needle reuse are Africa, Eastern Mediterranean Europe and Southeast Asia.3
Still an Issue in the U.S.
While many believe that this is an issue that only affects developing countries, there are still tens of thousands of people in the U.S. that have been put at risk as a result of needle reuse.5
Since 2001, there have been more than 150,000 people in the U.S. affected by unsafe injections, but experts say that many instances go unreported.5 The problem seems to be increasing as two-thirds of those unsafe injections were administered in the past four years. This needle reuse has lead to at least 49 disease outbreaks including deadly infections MRSA and hepatitis.5
In 2012, 8,000 people were contacted and urged to get tested for Hepatitis and HIV after an oral surgeon based in Denver, Colo., was accused of reusing needles and syringes on patients. The warning came from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment stating that the dentist had been reusing needles and syringes for more than 10 years.6 To date, six people have contracted a disease as a result of this situation.5
Searching for a Solution
Even with the Centers for Disease Control and World Health Organization’s efforts to end needle reuse, it continues to be a significant cause of infection in the U.S. and around the world.
Stringent policies prohibiting the reuse of needles and syringes, as well as the implementation of auto-disabling syringes haven’t ended the problem. One solution is to eliminate the needle.
- “A Patient Safety Threat – Syringe Reuse.” CDC.gov. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, n.d. Web.
- “Giving Safe Injections.” WHO.int. The World Health Organization. Web.
- “Use of Injections in Healthcare Settings Worldwide.” Hutin, Yvan. 2003.
- “Technical Activities: Injection Safety.” WHO.int. Web.
- “Dirty Medical Needles Put Tens of Thousands at Risk in the USA.” USAToday.com. USA Today Newspaper. March 6, 2013.
- “Three Infections Linked to Colorado Dentist Accused of Reusing Needles for over 11 Years.” CBSNews.com. Web.