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Medical offices reusing syringes, spreading disease

With the advent of disposable syringes more than 50 years ago, the medical world became immensely safer. However, recent breakouts of drug-resistant superbugs and viruses throughout the country have led health officials to uncover a dirty secret: There are many medical offices that still re-use syringes.

In fact, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 150,000 patients in Ohio and the rest of the nation have been victimized by unsafe injection practices since 2001, with two-thirds of the shoddy injections occurring over the past four years. This type of medical malpractice has led to 49 infectious disease outbreaks.

Some of the unsuspecting patients who were injected with tainted needles ended up developing life-threatening bacterial infections, including MRSA, or fatal viruses, such as hepatitis or HIV. A 57-year-old man who contracted hepatitis C while being treated for cancer started a foundation that advocates for safe injection practices.

“People think, ‘This can’t happen in the United States; this is a Third World thing,’” he told USA TODAY. But the man knows all too well that this type of medical malpractice can and does happen. While the vast majority of injections administered in the United States are safe, some studies suggest that more than 5 percent could breach safety standards.

Earlier this year, 8,000 patients of an oral surgeon were advised to be tested for HIV after state health officials determined that the office reused syringes to inject medication into patients’ IV lines. Before that, at least 10 people contracted drug-resistant MRSA infections from pain clinics that had injected multiple patients with pain medication from a single-dose vial.

It is likely that any patient who is infected with disease because of a dirty syringe would have a medical malpractice claim against the medical office that facilitated the injection. Medical facilities should not get away with putting patients at risk by reusing syringes.

Source: USA Today, “Dirty medical needles put tens of thousands at risk in USA,” Peter Eisler, Dec. 27, 2012.