Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Needlestick injuries in veterinary practice - is this an under-rated occupational hazard?

Its easy to see how needlesticks can happen...

This is one for the veterinarians, veterinary nurses and vet students out there – have you ever had a needlestick injury? When I learned at the ASID Zoonoses conference that Bartonellaspecies could be transferred by needlestick I wondered how common these types of incidents are in our profession. Turns out they are quite common!

The wonderful Scott Weese published a review a couple of years ago and the figures are consistently high – in one, 64 per cent of female vets had had a needlestick; in another, 87 per cent of zoo vets had had one or more; and in yet another study 71 per cent of vet technicians or nurses had had one.

Don't worry. He was fine! And so was the vet.
As Dr Weese points out in the review (which you can read in its entirety here), HIV and hepatitis C were big drivers for increased needle safety in human medicine. But the same drive doesn’t exist in the vet world.

But there are real risks – not just of transference of blood borne pathogens like Bartonella spp, but also tissue damage with large bore needles, and injection of agents including live vaccines, pro-inflammatory adjuvants, chemotherapy 
agents and anaesthetic agents.

Studies show that unlike doctors and nurses who have had the benefits of decades of needle-safety measures, the majority of vets and nurses still recap needles. So…do you recap? Have you had a needlestick injury? And if you’ve had a needlestick injury, what measures have you taken in response?


Weese JS & Jack DC (2008) Needlestick injuries in veterinary medicine. Canadian Veterinary Journal 49:780-784