Needle-stick injuries in an Ugandan teaching hospital
Newsom, D. H.
Kiwanuka, J. P.
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The on-going HIV epidemic has generally increased fear of needle-stick injuries (NSI) and renewed interest in the problem such injuries pose in Africa. The aims of the present study were to evaluate the frequency of NSI, explore the circumstances surrounding each injury and estimate the corresponding infection risk, among healthcare workers (HCW) in Uganda. Questionnaires, asking the recipients how many NSI they had suffered in the past year, how each of these NSI had occurred, what (perceived) risk of infection was associated with each injury, and what their practical and psychological reactions were, were sent to the HCW associated with the Mbarara Teaching Hospital in Uganda. Of the 280 individuals who received questionnaires, 180 (64%) responded and 100 (55% of the respondents) each reported suVering at least one NSI in the previous year. The total number of NSI reported (336) represented an incidence of 1.86 NSI/HCW-year. Interns suVered more NSI (annual mean=4.8) than any other occupational group. Most NSI occurred when patients moved during procedures, when HCW re-sheathed needles, or during suturing (each reported by 55 HCW — 30% of those responding). Following NSI, 60 HCW said they squeezed the site of the injury and washed it with bleach, 43 believed they had a 10% risk of HIV infection, 87 felt anxious, 54 felt depressed, 40 prayed, 24 had an HIV test, and four were counselled. To estimate actual infection risk, 435 patients were screened for antibody to HIV (1 and 2) and for the surface antigen of the hepatitis B virus (HBSAg); 26% and 2.8% were found seropositive, respectively. These seroprevalences were multiplied by previously determined probabilities of transmission to give estimated risks of infection (following a single NSI) of 0.08% for HIV and 0.135% for hepatitis B. During 3 years of training as a clinician (i.e. 2 years as a medical student and 1 year as an intern), more than six in 1000 individuals would be infected with HIV as a result of NSI and almost 10 in 1000 would be infected with hepatitis B virus by the same route. NSI are common, preventable sources of infection and stress for HCW in Africa.
- Research Article