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Hep C Transmission via subcutaneous needlestick
Sep 30, 2010

I am a nurse and today I was giving my patient an insulin injection (using an insulin syringe..probably 25-27 gauge). I gave the injection and removed the needle when it pricked my left pointer finger. I was wearing gloves, so I immediately pushed up the safety on the needle and removed my clothes to find that a small drop of blood had formed. I squeezed the blood out and washed my hands several times with scalding hot water. I later went to the ER and had all of my blood drawn and took antiretrovirals because his status was unknown. He is Hep C positive, but negative for Hep B and HIV. My question is, how likely am I to convert to Hep C positive from a needle that was only exposed to the patient's subcutaneous tissue and stuck me in the side of the finger?

Response from Dr. McGovern

I am very glad you went to the employee health service right away.

It is hard to give any firm numbers of course, but I think the risk of HCV infection is low because the needle went into subcutaneous tissue and the needle gauge is small. However, the risk is not zero so you need follow-up testing to determine if you become infected.

I want to reassure you that in the worse case scenario - if you become infected - there is a great chance that you could spontaneously clear...If your viremia persists, there is also a very high chance of treatment induced clearance of greater than 85 to 90%.

That is because treatment is more successful in acute, rather than chronic infection. So the overall message is good.



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