23.2.1  Hazards from infectious waste

Infectious wastes may contain a variety of pathogenic microorganisms. The route of entry into the body for microorganisms may be through a puncture, abrasion or cut in the skin, possibly caused by sharps contaminated with pathogens. Entry may also be through the mucous membranes (such as eye, mouth or nose), by inhalation, or by ingestion.

There is a particular concern about infection with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and hepatitis viruses B (HBV) and C via healthcare waste. These viruses are generally transmitted through needlestick injuries contaminated by human blood. Needlestick injuries are piercing wounds usually caused by the point of a needle but also by other sharp objects. To avoid the risk of HBV, it is recommended that all personnel handling healthcare waste should be immunized. Unfortunately, no vaccine is yet available against hepatitis C.

23.2  Public health importance of healthcare waste

23.3  Management of hazardous healthcare waste