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

Couple collecting empties for VIU scholarships can’t pick up cans on campus anymore

Parmars have been picking up cans for 12 years; university now enforcing safety policy

Gogo’s tree farm celebrates 90th year of growing Christmas trees

Gogo Christmas tree farm has grown Christmas trees since 1929 and started U-cut business in 1984

Nanaimo’s November was much drier than normal

Region got less than one-third normal rainfall for month and 2019 trending toward driest in 10 years

Raise the curtains: New outdoor theatre coming to Parksville

A $204,000 boost comes from Island Coastal Economic Trust

VIU scholarships created in honour of grad who died in plane crash

Awards related to indigenous studies and the environment will be offered in memory of Micah Messent

VIDEO: Boys help rescue Cariboo bear cub

The cub, weighing just 24lbs, has been taken to wildlife sanctuary in Northwest B.C. for the winter

Nanaimo Clippers holding Teddy Bear Toss

BCHL team has pair of home games this weekend, including charity event Saturday, Dec. 7

$578: that’s how much your first distracted driving ticket will cost with recent premium hikes

Over 50 per cent of Canadians admitted to using phone while driving last year, according to study

Coins can add up to a merrier Christmas for kids

News Bulletin’s Coins for Kids campaign now underway

Beefs & Bouquets, Dec. 5

To submit a beef or a bouquet to the Nanaimo News Bulletin, e-mail bulletinboard@nanaimobulletin.com

Kelowna man attempts to steal bait bike from RCMP parking lot

38-year-old Brian Richard Harbison is facing several charges

RCMP launch month-long impaired driving counterattack campaign

Carpooling, designated drivers, taxi, public transit all better choices than driving while impaired

Bear raids freezer, gorges on Island family’s Christmas baking

Hungry bruin virtually ignored meat and fish, focused, instead, on the sweets

Residents in B.C. city could face 133% tax hike in ‘worst case’ lawsuit outcome: report

An average home could see a tax increase of $2,164 in one year

Most Read