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WHO urges single-use syringes, action over MERS virus

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DETERMINED to protect people from infections acquired through unsafe injections such as hepatitis B and C, and Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV), the World Health Organisation (WHO), yesterday, called for all health-care programmes to switch to syringes that cannot be used more than once.

  The United Nations (UN) apex health body yesterday launched a new policy on injection safety and a global campaign with support from the IKEA Foundation and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, to help all countries tackle the pervasive issue of unsafe injections.

  IKEA Foundation is an independent charitable body that oversees IKEA’s global philanthropy. The Foundation funds dozens of programmes run by large and small organisations to make life better for children living in extreme poverty. 

  Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance is a public-private global health partnership committed to increasing access to immunisation in poor countries.

  The new WHO injection safety guidelines and policy released yesterday provides detailed recommendations highlighting the value of safety features for syringes, including devices that protect health workers against accidental needle injury and consequent exposure to infection.

  Also, the WHO, in another statement yesterday, warned that too little is being done to control the spread of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), which has infected 50 people in Saudi Arabia so far this month. It said the rising number of cases in health-care facilities indicates current infection-control measures are not being implemented. The WHO is urging countries to transit by 2020, to the exclusive use of the new “smart” syringes, except in a few circumstances in which a syringe that blocks after a single use would interfere with the procedure. One example is when a person is on an intravenous pump that uses a syringe.

  The new “smart” syringes WHO recommends for injections into the muscle or skin have features that prevent re-use. Some models include a weak spot in the plunger that causes it to break if the user attempts to pull back on the plunger after the injection. Others have a metal clip that blocks the plunger so it cannot be moved back, while in others the needle retracts into the syringe barrel at the end of the injection. Syringes are also being engineered with features to protect health workers from “needle stick” injuries and resulting infections. A sheath or hood slides over the needle after the injection is completed to protect the user from being injured accidentally by the needle and potentially exposed to an infection.

  The global body is also calling for policies and standards for procurement, safe use and safe disposal of syringes that have the potential for re-use in situations where they remain necessary, including in syringe programmes for people who inject drugs. Continued training of health workers on injection safety – which has been supported by WHO for decades – is another key recommended strategy. WHO is calling on manufacturers to begin or expand production as soon as possible of “smart” syringes that meet the WHO’s standards for performance, quality and safety.



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