Needle risk hidden in snow, sand, grass

As we in the UK continue to suffer with bad weather, it is reported that a man from Manly, Australia, will have to wait six months to learn if he has contracted hepatitis or HIV after stepping on a syringe at Little Manly Beach last week.

“Ian Jonsson, 30, was at the beach with his pregnant wife Laura and two-year-old son Ty on Thursday afternoon when he felt a sharp jab in the small toe of his left foot.

I squeezed the blood out of the wound and washed it, and then went straight to the emergency department at Manly Hospital.

They gave me a shot for hepatitis and for tetanus, but I have to go to a GP and then wait three months and six months to get the results of all the blood tests.

“The beach was packed and there were kids running around everywhere,” he said. Mr Jonsson’s needle-stick injury is the third on the peninsula in the past 10 months.

We tend to forget how easy it is for a discarded needle to slip beneath the sand, just below, waiting to injure innocent beach users. In coastal resorts, IV drug users have a tendency to congregate on the beach and leave their drug litter on the sand. Next day, adults and children kick off their shoes …….

Hidden sharps falling into long grass or sand, or covered by snow, are particularly dangerous. As the snow melts away across the UK, several areas will be found where a rash of syringes suddenly appears. We must hope that Local Authorities are quick to visit the likely hotspots and clear all discarded sharps before more accidents occur.

The health and safety implications are severe. Where needlestick or sharps injury occurs, this must never be dismissed as a minor or trivial injury but as one that may be associated with severe and long-lasting stress and anxiety, and possible infection. Public awareness must be maintained to make sure, as far as possible, that injuries are not dismissed without urgent attendance at a nearby A&E Department and referral to a specialist infectious diseases service for continuing care and follow-up.

At least one look-back review has concluded that since no infections occurred after reported needlestick injuries in one County that the risk is small and can beeffectively dismissed. This is wrong, possibly criminally wrong.

 Litter picking is an important role, to improve the appearance of our environment and also to ensure security and eliminate the danger associated with drug litter. There should be no relaxation in performance standards.

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