Safe syringes could avert 1.3 mln deaths a year-WHO

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GENEVA, Oct 23 (Reuters) Safer syringes could avert 1.3 million deaths a year, especially in poorer countries where 40 percent of all injections involve unsterilised reused needles, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said today.

In a statement, the UN agency linked 33 per cent of new hepatitis B infections and 2 million new cases of hepatitis C each year to unsafe injections and needle-stick injuries by health workers.

Some 5 per cent of new HIV cases worldwide come from unsafe injections in medical settings, the WHO said, estimating that 6 billion injections are given with unsafe needles each year.

Many countries cannot afford to use syringes with safety features, which cost about 15 US cents each compared to 3 cents for less sophisticated needles.

Howard Zucker, the WHO's assistant director-general for health technology and pharmaceuticals, said public health experts and donor governments would seek to encourage more procurement of safer syringes by poorer countries during a three-day conference in Geneva that opened today.

''The new technologies should be available to developing countries, where injections are used more and where the risk of infection is greater,'' Zucker said.

REUTERS ARB KP1412

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