Alarming spike in rate of jabs from discarded needles

HEALTH HAZARD: Discarded syringes have been found in playgrounds, laneways and public toilets, or buried in parks and gardens.
HEALTH HAZARD: Discarded syringes have been found in playgrounds, laneways and public toilets, or buried in parks and gardens. Design Pics

ALMOST every week on the Sunshine Coast, someone is pricked with a discarded needle.

There were 69 such incidents reported between January 2014 and June this year, the Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service has revealed.

While not every incident involved the risk of being injected with blood-borne diseases such as HIV or hepatitis B and C, some did.

Discarded syringes are often found in playgrounds, laneways and public toilets, or buried in parks and gardens.

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SCHHS clinical services executive director Kerrie Hayes said needle-stick injuries were recorded quantitatively and 55 of the presentation causes had been listed as "not specified". These included stepping on or pricking a finger on discarded needles and fish hooks.

Queensland Health says people who receive a needle-stick injury in a public place should seek medical attention as soon as possible.

It is important as some medications and vaccinations work best if taken soon after exposure.

A health practitioner should also give advice on the possible need for and timing of HIV, hepatitis B or hepatitis C testing.

People often have questions about testing syringes for the presence of viruses such as HIV or hepatitis C.

Such testing is not routinely conducted as environmental conditions such as sunlight and heat can degrade evidence of these viruses and make test results unreliable.

Queensland Health recommends washing the area around the puncture with soap and warm water for at least 30 seconds.

Cover the site with a bandaid or similar dressing and seek medical advice immediately.

If able to do so, put the needle in a rigid-walled, puncture-resistant container and seal or securely close the container.

It is advised that people don't panic as the risk of catching a serious infection as a result of an accidental needle-stick injury is very low, because these viruses do not survive for long outside the body.

A Sunshine Coast Council spokeswoman said it did not frequently find syringes or receive reports of found syringes, but there had been cases of people standing on them in the past year.

"Council has formal procedures to mitigate and manage syringes on council and public land, including collection of sharps containers, disposal of sharps and notification of needle programs," she said.

"The majority of public toilets are fitted with sharps disposal containers and these are serviced regularly by contractors and staff.

"Beaches and parks with high visitor numbers are cleaned twice per week and others with fewer visitors are cleaned periodically."

People should contact the council on 5475 7272 immediately if they find a syringe on beaches, parks or other public land. An officer will be sent immediately to remove the item and ensure it is disposed of correctly.

"Council encourages residents to contact the Queensland Clean Needle Helpline on 1800 633 353 for information on how to best dispose of their sharps," the spokeswoman said.

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