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

Fernie SAR rescues injured mountain biker

On Monday evening, Fernie Search and Rescue (SAR) was tasked by BC… Continue reading

Fernie man builds 10-foot sign thanking fire responders

Ken Rawson built his “thank u” sign on Saturday as helicopters responded to fires in the Elk Valley

SAR volunteers thanked after series of emergencies

Incidents ranged from the search for a missing hiker to delivering evacuation alerts in nearby towns

Update: guard built at Coal Creek Road fire near Fernie

Seventeen firefighters and one helicopter working to contain Coal Creek FSR fire, east of Fernie

‘Beauty amongst such tragedy:’ B.C. photographer captures nature’s trifecta

David Luggi’s photo from a beach in Fraser Lake shows Shovel Lake wildfire, Big Dipper and an aurora

Social media, digital photography allow millennials to flock to birdwatching

More young people are flocking to birdwatching than ever, aided by social media, digital photography

Convicted murderer still missing after escaping B.C. prison 2 weeks ago

Mission RCMP are continuing to search for escaped inmate John Norman MacKenzie

Smoky skies trap B.C. man inside for days

Air quality warning issued for Metro Vancouver and Fraser Valley

Case of truck driver charged in Humboldt Broncos crash adjourned until October

Jaskirat Singh Sidhu is charged with 16 counts of dangerous driving causing death, other charges

REVIEW: MTV VMAs was a shocking event, for the wrong reasons

MTV Video Music Awards lacked star power and felt flat and some of the winners turned heads

4.6 quake detected off coast of Vancouver Island

The small earthquake happened early Tuesday morning

Puppies picked up by BC Wildfire crew to be returned to family

They were just leaving the Monashee Complex of fires when they found the cutest creatures.

At least 14 illegal fires set in Fraser Valley this month

Conservation officers are fed up with people not listening to the province-wide fire ban

Cranbrook cyclist nabs another World Cup gold

Local athlete takes the top spot on the podium after World Cup road race in Quebec

Most Read