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Touching needle without breaking skin
Aug 31, 2013

Dear Ms Southall, I am a healthcare student. Last week, we had a tutorial where we were practising lumbar punctures on a model with one needle between many of us, taking turns. At one point, one of the students put this needle in the sharps container, which was full. The lumbar puncture needle was resting half in the container and half out of it. It was then my turn and I removed it and had a go on the model. It later occurred to me that this was a real bone-head move as it may have come in contact with some blood from other needles. I washed my hands about 45 minutes later. The needle did not puncture my skin and I don't think I had any wounds on my hands but I'm concerned I have have rubbed my face over that 45 minute period. We had been practising for over an hour at that point, so any needles in there would have been at least one hour old.

Please advise me of the risks and whether it is worth getting tested in 6 weeks' time. This website is an amazing resource - I have learned so much from the reading I have done on here. Please help me.

Response from Ms. Southall

Hi Part of your lessons going into the health care system should also cover HIV transmission. The situation you describe does not pose a risk for infection. Occupational exposure through needle stick can only happen with just that a needle stick. And even with that the risk of HIV transmission is less than 3%. HIV begins to die once it is outside of the body and becomes unable to infect. Lessons learned that you should never retrieve any item from a sharps container. Learn how to protect yourself and your patients.

Be well and stay safe, Shannon



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