This is what happens when a needle which has been in contact with potentially infectious material (i.e. any non-sterile needle) is accidentally (or otherwise) stabbed into someone it was not meant to go into.

A constant risk to health workers worldwide, needlestick injuries have caused many unfortunate people to come down with blood-borne diseases such as hepatitis and HIV.

An accidentally jab with a sterile needle, fresh out of the sealed pouch and which has poked anyone yet does not qualify as a needlestick injury.

Protocols vary from hospital to hospital regarding what should be done after a needlestick injury. Everyone agrees that the needlestick wound should be washed with copious amounts of water and soap. What usually happens after that is that a bunch of screening tests are done on both the health worker and the patient (whose body the needle previously went into) and repeated after 3 months on the health worker to rule out HIV. There may be requirements for notification to the people in charge of infection control and/or the administration.

Getting a needlestick injury is a very serious problem as a lot of anxiety usually arises in the affected nurse/doctor/medical student who typically goes through hell waiting for the laboratory results.

Having been on the receiving end of needles twice, I would like to add that there are two types of needles with vastly different concerns if you get stuck:

HOLLOW: these are what people usually think of as needles: the things on the end of a syringe when you get your vaccinations. Since these have a lumen and thus can store infective material, they are much more dangerous IF contaminated. Needlesticks from these are usually from carelessness (dropped in the trash or left on a bed) or, ironically, from recapping the needle and missing the protective cap.

SOLID: these are the safety pins and suture needles which harbor far less infective material. When they stick someone they are additionally cleaned on the way in by the person's gloves, clothing, and skin; risk is further lessened, although not eliminated.

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