| FAQ - Sharps Safety/Postexposure Management - Archived Through 2012
How dangerous are needlesticks?
The risk of bloodborne disease transmission depends on the source patient's serologic status, the nature of the exposure, and the healthcare worker's susceptibility. Also, different disease agents have different levels of virulence and therefore pose different degrees of risk. For workers that are unprotected against hepatitis B virus (i.e., those that have not been vaccinated or have not obtained naturally immunity due to resolved infection), the risk of developing serological evidence of infection following exposure to the blood of an HBV-infected patient may range from 23%-62%, depending upon the nature of the exposure (e.g., whether the injury is a puncture wound or a splash to the mucosa, the depth and severity of any percutaneous injuries, the amount of patient material involved, etc.), and the hepatitis B e-antigen (HbeAg) status of the source patient. The average incidence of hepatitis C virus (HCV) seroconversion following a percutaneous exposure to an HCV-infected source is 1.8%. The average risk of HIV seroconversion after percutaneous exposure to infected blood is estimated to be 0.3%. (1)
(1) CDC. Updated U.S. Public Health Service Guidelines for the Management of Occupational Exposures to HBV, HCV, and HIV and Recommendations for Postexposure Prophylaxis. MMWR Morbid Mortal Weekly Rep 2001;50(RR-11). Available at www.cdc.gov/mmwr//preview/mmwrhtml/rr5011a1.htm