CDC Responds to Rumors about HIV-Infected Needles
"I have read on the Internet several stories
about people getting stuck by needles in phone booth coin returns, movie theater seats,
and other places. One story said that CDC reported similar incidents about improperly
discarded needles and syringes"
Are these stories true?
CDC has received inquiries about a variety of
reports or warnings about used needles left by HIV-infected injection drug users in coin
return slots of pay phones and movie theater seats. These reports and warnings are being
circulated on the Internet and by e-mail and fax. Some reports have falsely indicated that
CDC "confirmed" the presence of HIV in the needles. CDC has not tested such
needles nor has CDC confirmed the presence or absence of HIV in any sample related to
these rumors. The majority of these reports and warnings appear to have no foundation in
CDC recently was informed of one incident in
Virginia of a needle stick from a small-gauge needle (believed to be an insulin needle) in
a coin return slot of a pay phone. The incident was investigated by the local police
department. Several days later, after a report of this police action appeared in the local
newspaper, a needle was found in a vending machine but did not cause a needle-stick
Discarded needles are sometimes found in the
community outside of health care settings. These needles are believed to have been
discarded by persons who use insulin or are injection drug users. Occasionally the
"public" and certain groups of workers (e.g., sanitation workers or housekeeping
staff) may sustain needle-stick injuries involving inappropriately discarded needles.
Needle-stick injuries can transfer blood and blood-borne pathogens (e.g., hepatitis B,
hepatitis C, and HIV), but the risk of transmission from discarded needles is extremely
CDC does not recommend testing discarded needles
to assess the presence or absence of infectious agents in the needles. Management of
exposed persons should be done on a case-by-case evaluation of (1) the risk of a
blood-borne pathogen infection in the source and (2) the nature of the injury. Anyone who
is injured from a needle stick in a community setting should contact their physician or go
to an emergency room as soon as possible. The injury should be reported to the local or
state health departments. CDC is not aware of any cases where HIV has been transmitted by
a needle-stick injury outside a health care setting.