What infections can used needles or sharps pass on?

Infections that used needles and sharps can pass on to other people include hepatitis B, hepatitis C and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

Infections that used needles and sharps can pass on to other people include: 

Although rare, there's also a small risk of other infections being transmitted through contaminated blood, such as cytomegalovirus (CMV) and Epstein-Barr virus (EBV).

For immediate first aid advice if you have injured yourself, see What should I do if I injure myself with a used needle? 

Needles and sharps

Once someone has used a needle, viruses in their blood may contaminate it. This includes needles used to inject illegal drugs. 

Sharps can include other medical supplies, such as syringes, scalpels and lancets, and glass from broken equipment. Blood can also contaminate these. 

Injuries from needles used in medical procedures are sometimes called needle-stick or sharps injuries.

People at increased risk

Some people have an increased risk of needle-stick injuries as a result of their job.

These include:

  • nurses
  • doctors
  • surgeons
  • dentists
  • dental nurses
  • phlebotomists  
  • hygienists 
  • laboratory technicians
  • the police
  • prison and probation services
  • customs and excise
  • social workers
  • funeral workers
  • piercers and tattooists 
  • building and demolition workers

If you injure yourself with a used needle at work, report the incident to your supervisor or manager immediately. There may be procedures in place you need to follow.

If you're at increased risk of needle-stick injuries because of your job, you may also need to take other preventative measures. For example, you may need to have a hepatitis B vaccination.

Support after an injury

If you have received treatment for a needle-stick injury, you may need some support. For example, counselling may help with any stress the injury has caused. Your employer's occupational health service can advise you on sick leave.

Read the answers to more questions about accidents, first aid and treatments.

Further information:

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