A. There has never been a report of
any infection passed from one person to another when this type of lancet holder
is used in the way it was used in our clinics. The holder was used a few
times a week in the Diabetes and Dermatology Clinics only, and each patient was
tested once or just a few times.
When this type
of lancet holder was used to test patients living in nursing homes and in
patients who were hospitalized for long periods of time not in the MUHC, some patients
became infected with hepatitis virus, which causes infection of the liver.
The virus most
commonly spread in the nursing homes was the Hepatitis B virus. The likelihood
of having Hepatitis B virus is higher in elderly people in nursing homes than
in young children. In Montreal, the rate of Hepatitis B infection in children
is very low, and since 1994 all children in Quebec are offered vaccination
against Hepatitis B when they are in Grade 4. Some children receive it earlier.
This means that the chance of exposure to someone with Hepatitis B virus in our
clinics is very low.
There is one
report of the Hepatitis C virus spread by incorrect use of these lancet holders
in patients who were admitted on a hospital ward. In that case, the holder was
used many times a day on many patients. HCV infection is very uncommon in
children in Canada.
HIV is another
virus that can be found in the blood, but there has never been a report of
HIV being spread by the use of lancet holders, even when they were used
on hospital or chronic care wards where the same device was used many times a
day on many patients. HIV has been transmitted by blood in other situations,
for example, by blood transfusions, or by injuries from the type of hollow
needle used to draw blood from a vein if there is visible fresh blood in the
needle. HIV does not survive drying out, so we do not believe that the tiny
trace of blood that may have been left on the lancet holder would be able to
cause this infection. To be absolutely sure, we can offer testing for Hepatitis
B and C, as well as HIV.