Healthcare and other workers at risk of psychiatric trauma from needlestick injuries shows new research

A new study published today in the scientific journal Occupational Medicine has found that those who experience needlestick injuries can suffer persistent and substantial psychiatric illness or depression. Needlestick or ‘sharps’ injuries are a daily risk to nurses, medical and health ancillary workers. The physical health effects of a needlestick injury are well known but this new research has demonstrated the mental health consequences of sharps injuries. The researchers found that those affected suffered psychiatric trauma that is similar in severity to trauma caused by other events such as road traffic accidents. This had a major impact on work attendance, family relationships and sexual health. The duration of the psychiatric symptoms were linked to the length of time the person injured by the sharp had to wait for blood test results. Although sharps injuries mostly occur in healthcare settings, many other employees are also at risk including prison and police officers, park wardens, street cleaners and refuse collectors, tattoo artists and others who may come across carelessly or maliciously discarded hypodermic needles. A sharp contaminated with infected blood can transmit more than 20 diseases including hepatitis B, C and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). This transmission risk causes worry and stress to the estimated 100,000 people who experience a needlestick accident every year.

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