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“The only thing necessary for these diseases to the triumph is for good people and governments to do nothing.”

Romanians Dangerously Stuck on Syringes

Shots can carry vitamins but spread hepatitis

By John Dillon
HealthScout Reporter

FRIDAY, April 9 (HealthScout) -- The country that gave us Count Dracula has a real-life enchantment with inserting sharp objects into the skin. Officials find this unhealthful, even if a goodly number of Romanians think it's for their own good.

In this case, the sharp objects aren't fangs, but syringes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that a large number of Romanians prefer to take a needle to relieve ailments that don't call for the use of needles.

According to the CDC report, 120 million "therapeutic injections" are given in that country each year -- or 5.3 for every man, woman, and child.

"They use injections to administer medications for things that in the United States, we might not use them for," says Catherine Dentinger, an epidemiologist with the CDC.


These injections have dangerous consequences. The survey was conducted because health officials saw a sharp rise in cases of hepatitis B in children under age 5. The liver disease is associated with dirty needles as well as what the CDC calls the "overuse of injections" that "might increase opportunities for transmission."

The youngsters were no strangers to needles. In addition to receiving vaccinations, 38 percent of them also got "therapeutic injections," the report says.

According to the CDC survey, 28 percent of Romanians wanted their medications in a syringe to treat fever, 29 percent to relieve a cold, and 17 percent to stop diarrhea. In addition, 42 percent preferred taking vitamin supplements in a needle. (The survey didn't bother with illegal drugs.)

These preferences were roughly even among all age groups. Women were more likely to demand needles than men (55 to 45 percent).

The survey of 1,197 Romanians showed that three in four "believed injectable medications were 'stronger' than oral medications," according to the results published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Studies in other countries have shown that people prefer syringes because they believe the drug works better when put through the skin. The pain of the injection is a sign to them that it's working immediately. Also, needles are a symbol of advanced technology.


Dentinger says they're "cultural issues" that health officials must overcome. "We would like to start to change behavior," she says. "I, as a health care provider, consider an injection invasive."

For the most part, the Romanians are using clean needles and aren't re-using them, Dentinger says. They're also well aware of the link between needles and the AIDS virus.

"Even people on dirt roads knew that you could get HIV from an injection," she says. However, "nobody's quite as clued in to hepatitis B as they are HIV." They don't realize that one can get hepatitis B and C if an injection is done improperly.

What To Do

The last thing health officials want is to make Romanians (or people with similar feelings in other countries) afraid of needles. "We don't want people not to get vaccines," she says. Besides, there is a vaccine that protects against hepatitis B.