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

Fort Langley is open for business

Challenges abound, but local merchants are looking forward to summer.

PHOTOS: Grieving Langley widow, with teen boy, shares a story of angels

Walnut Grove’s Rick Rozdeba’s hospice story evoked tears and brought the crowd to its feet.

Fraser Valley photo clubs to compete at Clayton event

Photo clubs from Vancouver to Chilliwack will compete in the Langley Camera Club’s annual event

Free, family friendly fun at upcoming Clayton Community Festival

New this year will be parkour, skateboarding demonstrations for youth

Hells Angels invited to rally by anti-SOGI organizer

The Culture Guard group has helped Hells Angels in the past, said its executive director.

VIDEO: B.C. man recognized for spinning basketball on toothbrush

Abbotsford man holds world record for longest duration of time of 60.5 seconds

Cat found stuffed in box in Dumpster in northeastern B.C.

Still alive, cat was found near Dawson Creek restrained with zip ties, legs forced behind neck

Fears prompt feds to establish BBQ brush safety standards

Wire-bristle safety fears prompt Ottawa to establish BBQ brush safety standards

Don’t forget about women left to sweep up shards of glass ceiling, W7 urges G7

When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau champions gender equality at the G7 he is being asked to raise the concerns of marginalized women

Canadian air travel industry fears pilot flight-time limits will go too far

Air carriers urge feds to slow down flight-time limits for sleepy pilots

B.C. man charged with litany of drug charges in cross-border smuggling operation

William Milton Barnes of Saanich faces multiple charges

Sky-high farmland prices ‘ruinous’ for B.C. agriculture: UFV ag professor

Fraser Valley-based Tom Baumann says $80K-per-acre in area threatens food security

Passersby nab alleged purse snatcher in Vancouver crime spree

Police say a 23-year-old Calgary man has been charged with theft and assault

Political heavyweights hit Washington in hunt for NAFTA deal

Officials from Prime Minister’s office, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland part of talks

Most Read