Needlestick & Other Occupational Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens

Medical Student Health & Wellness Services Needlestick & Other Occupational Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens
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Needlestick & Other Occupational Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens

NYU School of Medicine’s Student Health Service provides emergency care to matriculated and visiting students who experience accidental exposure to blood or other bodily fluids during their training. This care may involve postexposure prophylaxis against HIV.

What to Do If an Accident Happens

If you experience a needlestick, a splash, or another event involving contact with bodily fluids, it is important that you seek medical attention within two hours of the incident to prevent possible transmission of a pathogen.

Wash the Affected Area

If you sustain a needlestick or other sharps injury, wash the affected area with soap and water, without squeezing or manipulating the site. If you sustain a splash to exposed mucous membranes, including the mouth, nose, and eyes or eyelids, flush with water.

Identify the Source of Exposure

Notify your supervisor right away to be relieved from duty. The resident or attending physician orders any necessary tests of the source patient’s blood. Do not approach the patient yourself.

Seek Treatment for the Exposure

Seek treatment at the Student Health Service within two hours of the exposure. If the exposure takes place after hours or at an off-campus location, go to the closest emergency room. Notify us of your treatment as soon as possible.

Postexposure Prophylaxis

Treatment after an occupational exposure to blood and bodily fluids focuses on preventing the transmission of pathogens after contact. This involves performing blood tests to screen for hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV; prescribing postexposure prophylactic medication if necessary; and conducting follow-up testing on a case-by-case basis.

To prevent HIV infection, antiretroviral medications may be given. Depending on our clinical assessment of the event, we may recommend that you take one or more antiretrovirals for up to 28 days.

If you are prescribed medication for postexposure prophylaxis, weekly follow-up appointments are required for as long as you are taking medication. It is important that you contact us if you if you think you might be pregnant or you experience any side effects, such as nausea, fatigue, diarrhea, headache, insomnia, dizziness, loss of appetite, yellowing of the eyes, fever, rash, or muscle or abdominal pain.

The chances of infection from occupational exposure are low, but we ask that you take precautions to prevent transmission. It is especially important in the first few months after your exposure that you practice safe sex—for example, by using condoms or other barrier protection every time you have sex—and refrain from breastfeeding to prevent HIV transmission.

During this period, it is also important to avoid donating blood, organs, plasma, or semen. Follow all safety rules at your workplace, and use safety equipment as needed.

Additional information about occupational blood-borne pathogen exposure is available from NYU’s Exposure Control Plan, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.