Healthcare News & Insights

Med students used single-use needle on multiple patients

It doesn’t seem as if you need to be highly trained to know that re-using a single-use blood testing device is a bad idea. But these students thought it was A-Ok.

A group of students in the University of New Mexico’s physician assistant program were offering free blood sugar tests at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque. The diabetes screening was offered as part of the center’s “Pueblo Days” celebration of American Indian Week. Each patient had a finger pricked to obtain a small blood sample for testing.

Unfortunately, after the event, school officials realized that the students had re-used the single-use devices on several patients, and hadn’t kept appropriate records of their activities.

Officials estimate that as many as 55 patients were put at risk of contracting Hepatitis B and C, although other diseases such as HIV could also have been transmitted.

If there’s any good news, the design of the “sticker” means that the risk of transmission is very small — though not non-existent. The estimated risk of infection is less than 0.5%, according to the school.

The school is working with the Indian Health Service, the New Mexico Department of Health, and the CDC to identify the patients who were put at risk. The school will provide testing for affected patients as well as any needed treatment.

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