After Callie was pricked, I enrolled in a city college in Portland, and wrote this essay, that will continue along the next 3 posts.
Sharps Problems in the United States
Sharps have certainly been causing problems in all their years of existence. A sharp, in the medical field, is a term given to devices with sharp points or edges that can puncture or cut skin. There are many examples of items that are considered sharps today. This includes needles, syringes, lancets, auto injectors, infusion sets, and connection needles.
Needle forms of sharps are hollow needles that are used to insert drugs underneath the skin.
A syringe is a device that consists of a plunger fitting tightly in a tube. It is used to inject medication into the body, or take fluid from it. They take punctures to take drops of blood specimen to test.
An instrument commonly used to treat diabetes; it is made of a short, double-edged blade that is often called a “fingerstick device.”
Auto injectors are syringes that are already filled with liquid medication that are intended to be a single dose that is self-injected into the body. Auto injectors include epinephrine and insulin pens. They are often used in life-saving circumstances, such as when a person who is very allergic to bees is stung by one. Auto injectors are typically used in these situations.
An infusion set is a system consisting of a needle used to send drugs to the body. The system connects an insulin pump to the user. The purpose of an infusion set is to deliver insulin under the skin. Connection needles are those that connect to a tube and transfer fluids in and out of the body. Patients who are on home hemodialysis often use connection needles.
Sharps are used under many circumstances in the lives of those who must use them regularly. They are used to treat and manage the medical conditions of people and animals.
Because they are used each day, and sometimes multiple times a day, this leads to a lot of sharps that need to be disposed of. In fact, there are around 9 million people in America alone who use needles and other sharps while at home, work, school, as well as many other instances in their daily life (fda.gov).
Sharps have multiple uses to treat a wide variety of conditions. To list a few: allergies, arthritis, cancer, diabetes, hepatitis, HIV/AIDS, infertility, migraines, multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis, blood clotting disorders, and psoriasis all use needles or some other forms of sharps. Altogether, this amounts to about 3 billion used needles or other sharps that need to be disposed of outside of a health care center every year. 1
Due to this large amount of sharps, proper disposal of them is very important as to reduce the risk of harm to other citizens or animals. Sharps, if not disposed of properly, can cause potential needle stick injuries. The harm that a puncture from a needle can cause much more harm than just the breaking the skin injury. It can induce psychological trauma to the victim that can last for months. “This can affect work, family and social relationships.”
The actual consequences that sharps can psychologically consequence are career fear, anxiety, work inability, panic attacks, and depression cases(Adams,65). Used needles can transmit serious diseases to humans and animals. The most common of these diseases from needle sticks are Hepatitis B (HBV), Hepatitis C (HCV), and Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). These can be life-threatening diseases, and when sharps are not safely disposed of, they pose a risk of transmission of these diseases to innocent people.
Hepatitis B is an illness that causes liver inflammation, vomiting, jaundice, and, in the worst of cases, death. The disease responds very poorly to most therapies, only a few known therapies are able to help stop this disease. Vaccination is the only preventable manner in stopping infection. Over 400 million people may be chronically infected with Hepatitis B, meaning, they can’t get rid it. 2 Hepatitis C is an illness which can lead to scarring of the liver and ultimately cirrhosis.
This can develop into liver failure, liver cancer, and some other problems with the liver. 130- 150 million people may be infected with Hepatitis C. 3
Human Immunodeficiency Virus is a virus in which the immune system progressively fails and allows life-threatening infections and cancers to flourish. There are about 34 million people in the world living with HIV, or AIDS worldwide. 4 Most do not know that they are infected and they could be passing on this virus.