Meningitis Outbreak Reinforces Need for Safe Injections. A Message from HONOReform Foundation

November 29, 2012

The following message is provided by the HONOReform Foundation in response to the national meningitis outbreak.

MENINGITIS OUTBREAK REINFORCES NEED FOR SAFE INJECTIONS

Safe Injection Practices Can’t be a “Shot in the Dark”     

The leading national advocacy organization for injection safety today said the current multi-state outbreak of fungal meningitis linked to contaminated steroid injections should be an urgent wake-up call for healthcare providers and consumers.

HONOReform (Hepatitis Outbreaks’ National Organization for Reform) founder Evelyn McKnight, AuD, reminded the medical community that “While the vast majority of medical injections are safe, certain practices can and do put patients at risk.  We need to consider all aspects of the medical injection process, from manufacturing to disposal, and work together to safeguard this entire spectrum.”  Dr. McKnight was herself infected with hepatitis C during chemotherapy treatment for a reoccurrence of breast cancer.  The reason?  Nurses working under the direction of her oncologist had reused syringes to access multi-dose vials of saline used as part of her treatment regimen.

According to Elliott S. Greene, MD,  Albany Medical Center, Albany, NY, not only can medications become tainted because of poor production techniques, they can also be contaminated when providers do not use them properly; for instance, failing to use aseptic technique when preparing and administering injections. “Using medications packaged as single-dose or single-use for more than one patient also presents a risk,” Dr. Greene said.  “Single-dose medications do not contain preservatives and microbial contamination can result.”

While rare, other unsafe injection practices continue to occur, for instance, using the same syringe to administer medication to more than one patient, even if the needle was changed or the injection was administered through an intervening length of intravenous (IV) tubing.  Another unsafe practice is accessing a medication vial or bag with a syringe that has already been used to administer medication to a patient, then reusing contents from that vial or bag for another patient.

More than 130,000 people across the United States have been notified over the past decade that they need to be tested for Hepatitis C or even HIV because they received an unsafe injection.  Recent news reports of patients who are devastated after learning that they may be facing fungal meningitis point to the enormous emotional impact of receiving notification that you may have a potentially deadly infection as a result of receiving health care.

“Even if they turn out not to be infected, living with the uncertainty that they may develop a serious disease places a terrible burden on patients and their families,” Ilene Corina, President of the patient safety organization PULSE of NY, said.  “That the situation is entirely preventable makes it all the more frustrating.”

Dale Ann Micalizzi, founder of the pediatric patient advocacy group Justin’s HOPE, at the Task Force for Global Health, states that when children are involved, the heartbreak is especially devastating.

“While the current multi-state fungal meningitis outbreak was a factory production contamination problem, over which health care providers have no control, it is a sobering reminder that injection safety really matters.   Every step from production at the company, to the healthcare providers’ preparation, administration and disposal of the medication must be done right.  Companies producing medications must meet standards for the safety of their products.  In the clinical area, healthcare providers must always make sure the injection practices they use are safe.  This recent outbreak just reinforces that safe injection practices can’t be a shot in the dark.” “

For more information, visit www.honoreform.org and contact Steve Langan, executive director, at 402.659.6343.

Click here to visit the HONOReform Foundation’s website.

About HONOReform Foundation:

HONOReform Foundation advocates for patient safety, justice and compassion at both the state and national level. It was formed in response to viral hepatitis outbreaks caused by reuse of syringes and other types of substandard care in outpatient facilities and private physicians’ offices. The overall mission of HONOReform Foundation is to promote the lessons of the outbreaks so that these tragedies will never happen again. HONOReform is the only national advocacy organization dedicated to protecting patients through safeguarding the medical injection process. Our vision is a nation in which health care providers always follow fundamental injection safety practices that are designed to protect all patients each and every time they receive an injection.

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