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APIC: Unsafe Needle Practices Causing Unnecessary Risks

An article appearing in this month's issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine identifies 33 outbreaks of hepatitis B or C virus infection in U.S. outpatient health care settings during the past 10 years caused by unsafe needle and injection practices. The article is reminiscent of last February's highly publicized outbreak in Nevada in which 40,000 people were notified of their possible risk of hepatitis C due to improper use of syringes at a Las Vegas endoscopy clinic. According to Kathy Warye, CEO of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC), unsafe injection practices also have been cited at free-standing centers in Nebraska, New York, Michigan, and North Carolina, needlessly exposing hundreds of thousands of patients to life-threatening infections.

"As the nation's largest infection prevention organization, APIC is very concerned by the mounting number of cases in which clinicians in ambulatory care settings failed to follow safe injection practices, causing outbreaks of serious infections and endangering the lives of patients," Warye said in a statement released in conjunction with the Annals article. "These outbreaks were preventable and should never have occurred. Consumers seek health care services to get better and should not be exposed to unnecessary risk."

To increase awareness of the risks and ensure that clinicians understand the basics of safe injection practice, APIC is providing educational resources and expertise and participating in HONOReform, a national coalition formed to bring a halt to unsafe needle practices in outpatient centers, Warye added. "With an increasing amount of care being delivered in outpatient settings, more patients will be put at risk unless clinicians are adequately educated and consistently adhere to infection prevention measures. Clinics should also be concerned about new and more virulent pathogens, such as MRSA, which can be transmitted in outpatient settings, and take a hard look at how they are addressing infection prevention overall," she said.

Among the resources APIC is offering to address the problem are Webinars, newsletters, and a Guide to Infection Control in Ambulatory Care, which Warye says translates CDC guidelines into practice. For tools and more information, visit www.apic.org.

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