Needlestick injury is a wound piercing the skin caused by a contaminated sharps instrument, most commonly a hypodermic needle.

This learning session considers needlestick injuries in both healthcare workers (HCW) and members of the public.

An occupational exposure occurs when a HCW is exposed to the blood or other bodily fluids of another person. Although particular attention must be paid to the exact nature of the exposure to determine the risk of transmission, needlestick injuries and exposure incidents in healthcare workers should be managed along similar lines.

The most significant risk from needlestick injuries and exposures is the transmission of blood borne viruses. 

  • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
  • Hepatitis B
  • Hepatitis C

Sexual exposure to blood borne viruses requires a similar process of risk assessment, appropriate testing, and decisions regarding post exposure prophylaxis (PEP). This is usually managed by sexual health services and is not included within the scope of this learning session.

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