There are plenty of risks involved in working in modern hospital settings. Hospital staff members can wind up injured if they fall while rushing to respond to a patient. They could do permanent damage to their joints while attempting to move or lift a patient. They can face violence from patients with mental health problems or under the influence of drugs. They can also wind up exposed to deadly diseases.
Anyone working in a hospital could get exposed to infectious materials when someone coughs or sneezes. Additionally, cleaning up bodily fluids could create a risk of exposure to illness. However, accidental needle sticks can be particularly dangerous, as they can spread potentially fatal bloodborne diseases from patients to hospital workers.
What kind of diseases can medical staff catch from a needle stick?
Many severe illnesses are bloodborne, meaning that human blood can transmit the pathogen to someone else. In some cases, these bloodborne illnesses can even get spread by biting insects, like mosquitoes. These diseases include West Nile Virus and Zika.
The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the virus that causes the disease AIDS, is one such virus that can pass through blood exposure via a needle prick. Two forms of hepatitis, HBV and HCV, can also spread through human blood. Other bloodborne conditions include Cytomegalovirus and Parvovirus B19, also called the filth disease because it often spreads through mucus or saliva. Even some aggressive and deadly diseases, like Ebola, can wind up transmitted by human blood.
Coping with the consequences of an accidental needle stick at work
Medical screening is of the utmost importance for individuals who have exposure or potential exposure to dangerous pathogens because of a needle stick on the job. In certain cases, when staff members know who the needle previously touched, it will be easier to screen for medical consequences. Other times, more comprehensive screening and long-term monitoring may be necessary.
Those who do acquire serious conditions, like HIV, may require ongoing care after a needle stick. Modern medicine can control HIV and prevent it from progressing to AIDS, but the medication involved can be costly. The same is true of many of the more serious bloodborne illnesses.
Hospital workers sickened by a needle stick typically have the option of seeking workers’ compensation to cover their medical costs and possibly also disability benefits if the condition they acquire prevents them from working.