Island Health: No need for alarm in wake of Victoria needle-prick incidents

Three incidents in a week prompts meeting between health authority, city service providers

Island Health’s chief medical health officer wants to assure people that despite three reported incidents involving needle pricks in the past week, the risk to public safety remains low.

“One of the things I really have to emphasize is how low this risk really is to the general public,” Dr. Richard Stanwick said at a Wednesday press conference at Vancouver Island Health Authority.

With Island Health’s aggressive needle distribution program in Greater Victoria doing well to keep bloodborne disease rates low among injection drug users, “even if the needles are out there, odds are they will not be containing harmful pathogens,” he said.

Stanwick said not only are local needle cleanup crews not reporting an increase in the number of discarded rigs they collect, the spacing and circumstances of each of the three incidents does not indicate any troublesome pattern.

In the wake of three separate incidents involving unsuspecting members of the public getting pricked by hypodermic needles, Island Health and downtown service providers met Wednesday to discuss the situation.

RELATED: Third Victoria person pricked by needle in past week

Island Health stated today that it would be meeting with downtown service providers and local government officials on Wednesday to talk about ways to “collectively reduce the number of sharps that may be inappropriately discarded.”

The police were called in all three incidents, the first of which happened at the Pandora Avenue McDonald’s Restaurant, the second on Pembroke Street a couple of blocks away, and the latest after a needle was found discarded in a planter in the 700-block of Johnson Street – the second time in a week the caller encountered a needle.

RELATED: Victoria woman walking her dog pricked by needle found in paper bag

According to Island Health, there are about 35 locations around the region that are distribution and collection points for needles. Daily sweeps for used needles are conducted in and around downtown Victoria by SOLID (Society 0f Living Intravenous Drug Users) outreach team members and others. Between April 1 and Sept. 30 last year, SOLID alone distributed 37,054 sterile needles and collected 30,089.

Grant McKenzie is communications director for Our Place Society, which has a temporary supervised overdose prevention site distributing harm reduction supplies and collecting used needles from those injecting drugs elsewhere. While encountering discarded needles can be unsettling, he said, the small number their group finds in common public spaces does not indicate cause for alarm.

“If there is an individual out there planting needles, then the police will deal with that,” he said, referring to the planter case. “But Our Place and SOLID and the organizations, we always clean up around our neighbourhood.”

On an average day, “we might find five needles in the large area that we patrol on our sweeps,” he said, noting that many of those are found consistently in the same locations as opposed to being discarded haphazardly. “We’re not seeing a lot of random needles just scattered around.”

Various organizations have resources to pick up found needles, including SOLID, Our Place, the City of Victoria and the Downtown Victoria Business Association.

Island Health states that the risk of getting sick if pricked by a needle is low. If this happens to you, it is recommended to allow the wound to bleed freely, quickly wash the area with soap and warm water, do not squeeze or bleach the injured area and call the Island Health communicable disease program at 1-866-665-6626. You should visit the emergency ward within two hours for treatment and followup.

editor@vicnews.com

Just Posted

Parksville council disagrees over parkland, payment

Developer planned to provide 0.5 ha. of land

Rodeo returns to Coombs for fourth year

Events include saddle, bareback riding and barrel racing

Model trains, historical exhibits offered at Parksville museum’s Railway Days

The family-friendly event takes place on Aug. 17 and 18 and is by donation

Coombs, Errington area director won’t run again

Julian Fell endorses Leanne Salter for role

B.C. declares state of emergency as more than 560 wildfires rage

This is only the fourth state of emergency ever issued during a fire season

B.C. wildfires 2018: Hazy skies impacting crews in spotting new fires

18,000 people are on an evacuation alert, with 3,000 homes under an evacuation order

Minister optimistic after 2 days of Columbia River Treaty negotiations

Canadian and U.S. officials met in Nelson Wednesday and Thursday to discuss future of the treaty

Man dies in B.C. police cell while awaiting court hearing

An independent investigation is underway after a man died while in Penticton police custody Aug. 16

RCMP appeal for tips, dashcam footage in German tourist shooting west of Calgary

The Durango crashed into the ditch after the shooting near the Goodstoney Rodeo Centre

2 nurses attacked at B.C. psych hospital, union calls for in-unit security

PHSA says that in-unit guards would do more harm than good

Former B.C. optician won’t be jailed for sexually assaulting minor

Kenneth Pilkington sentenced to 24 months’ probation for offence three decades ago

Red Cross now accepting donations for those impacted by B.C. wildfires

The Canadian Red Cross is asking for help now and in the weeks and months ahead.

B.C. program to educate parents reduces ‘shaken baby syndrome’ by 35%

Period of PURPLE Crying was launched nearly a decade ago

UPDATED: Vancouver Island community under evacuation alert due to wildfire

BC Wildfire Service says steep terrain near Zeballos poses challenge as “out of control” wildfire approaches homes

Most Read