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70 Patients could have been exposed to HIV from their flu shot

Sasha Brown-Worsham

by

Sasha Brown-Worsham

Sasha Brown-Worsham has written for dozens of publications over the course of her years as a journalist and blogger. She lives outside NYC with her three children, husband, and multiple pets. She is working on her first novel.

Nurse may have exposed 70 people to diseases after reusing the same flu shot syringe

In one of the worst nightmares of vaccination, about 70 people may have been exposed to HIV or hepatitis in New Jersey after one nurse failed to switch out the syringe in between vaccinations.

It's hard to believe something like this can happen in today's environment, but it seems that is precisely what went on at Otsuka Pharmaceutical, when employees received the vaccinations at their offices in Princeton, New Jersey, on Sept. 30. All have now been warned they may have been exposed to infected blood.

The 70 flu shot recipients have been asked to test for HIV and hepatitis, but it could take months for any serious diseases to show up. So how does this happen?

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The company who provided the shots — a group called TotalWellness — told employees that their nurse "failed to follow proper medical procedures and safeguards."

Scary, right?

What she seems to have done, according to the Department of Health, is to have disposed of the needle in between patients, but not disposed of the syringe. This does open the chance that each vaccine recipient was exposed to the blood of those who went before them. And that's how diseases spread, my friends. It's terrifyingly easy to contract something life altering.

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Now these employees wait to get tested and retested for diseases, but for the rest of us, it's a wake-up call to pay attention when we get our flu shots. In the past, I have thought nothing of jumping in to a drug store clinic or my corporate vaccination event. But now I wonder.

The risk of infection is relatively low, which is lucky for the people exposed. But it isn't zero. And that's an infuriating fact. In the future, I will ask the nurse giving me my shots (and my children shots) about the syringe. I shouldn't have to. It should be obvious. But apparently this is a mistake that can be made.

It's pretty disgusting that in this age when we know so many things about vaccines and hygiene that this could happen. But here we are. The chances of transmission may be low. But I prefer zero.

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