What do I do if I am poked by a needle?
If you or your loved one is poked by a needle, the risk for a contracting a virus is low, but you should still seek out medical attention as soon as possible.
If you are poked by a needle:
- Let the wound bleed as much as possible
- Flush the wound as much as possible
- Wash the would well with soap and warm water
- Seek medical help as soon as possible
Be ready to tell your healthcare provider:
- If there was blood on the needle tip
- If there was any liquid inside the syringe and the colour of the liquid
- Where the incident happened
- If the needle looked clean or dirty
- The location of the poke on your body
- If any substance was also injected when you were poked
There are a lot unknowns when it comes to the risk of getting sick from a needle poke in the community. Studies of needle poke incidents often look at what the risk is for occupational exposures in a healthcare setting. The risk of contracting a virus such as HIV, Hepatitis C, or Hepatitis B is much lower for a cold needle found in the community.
What Viruses are you at risk for if you are poked by a needle?
Hepatitis C, Hepatitis B, and HIV. Although the risk of contracting any of these viruses from a cold, abandoned needle in the community is very low.
What is HIV?
HIV or Human Immunodeficiency Virus attacks the immune system. It works by infecting your immune cells and reduces your body’s ability to fight infections. HIV can be passed by blood, semen, vaginal fluid and breast milk. It can enter the body through open wounds and mucous membranes. A person will rarely if ever contract HIV through their digestive tract. HIV is treatable but not curable. With antiretroviral medication you can live a long healthy life. Individuals who have HIV and take their medication regularly can reach HIV levels in their blood so low that they are undetectable. For these individuals, it is virtually impossible to pass HIV to another person.
What is Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is a virus that infects liver cells. Once inside your liver cells your body’s immune system fights your own liver cells. This causes scarring, which can lead to cirrhosis. Hepatitis C is usually spread when blood from a person infected with the hepatitis C virus enters the body of someone who is not infected. There is no vaccine for Hepatitis C. However, there is medication available that can cure it.
What is Hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is also a virus that infects liver cells. Once inside your liver cells, your body’s immune system fights your own liver cells. This causes scarring, which can lead to cirrhosis. The hepatitis B virus is spread when blood, semen, or other body fluid infected with the hepatitis B virus enters the body of a person who is not infected. There is no cure for Hepatitis B. There is a vaccine for Hepatitis B, and medication that can help treat Hepatitis B if you are infected. If you have recently been exposed to Hepatitis B and you are not vaccinated, there is post-exposure prophylaxis that is effective at preventing Hepatitis B infection.