Needle-stick injuries are more commonly reported as livestock production becomes more concentrated and industrialized, says Kelley J. Donham, MS, DVM, Dipl. ACVPM, Iowa’s Center for Agricultural Safety and Health, University of Iowa. “The health care community is relatively unaware of the nature of the pharmaceuticals that may be used in livestock production, and how to evaluate the risk, nature of the illness that may result, and how to clinically manage these conditions,” Donham says.

To prevent needle stick injuries, Donham suggests that veterinarians promote properly designed and maintained animal handling facilities of their own and of clients. Assure there is adequate assistance. Most accidental inoculations occur when the handling facilities are inadequate, and you are trying to do a two-handed job while struggling by yourself to inoculate an animal that is much faster, bigger, stronger, and more frantic than you are.

Select immunization products that do not contain live organisms if possible. Avoid or take particular care with immunization products  that contain a mineral oil adjuvant, as they can cause extensive inflammation following unintended needle sticks. Do not allow pregnant women to use oxytocin or prostaglandins. Use alternatives for tilmicosin. If you dispense tilmicosin, make sure you have thoroughly educated the client and that he/she understands the hazards of its use and procedures for safe handling (as tilmicosin is by veterinary prescription only, there are potential legal consequences if an appropriate veterinary-client relationship is not developed along with associated safety measures).

Develop proper sharps handling and disposal policies for your clinic and your clients. And train employees on safe inoculation procedures and sharps handling and storage:

  • One dose in a syringe at a time (if possible), or use safe multiple-dose devices.
  • Keep needle capped until use.
  • Do not carry a loaded syringe in your pocket or mouth.
  • Change needles frequently.
  • Wear safety glasses to prevent being sprayed in the eyes if needle slips off the hub when injecting.

Dr. David Rendell in Australia has developed a training program for sheep and cattle producers that indicates that the current popular two-handed injection techniques where the non-preferred hand lifts the skin prior to injecting substantially increases the risk of unintentional needle sticks. A safer and effective one-handed technique can be achieved in most scenarios with training and practice. Investigate changing to needleless inoculation.

More information.

This information was presented at the 2009 AABP annual conference.