Agneta Bjurman had just qualified as a nurse when she inadvertently pricked herself with a syringe after carrying out tests on a man who was seriously ill.
Shortly afterwards she began to feel unwell, but it took some time before she made the connection between the deterioration of her health and the incident with the needle.
Many years after the initial accident, in 1994, she was eventually diagnosed with Hepatitis C. But only now has the Swedish Social Insurance Agency (Försäkringskassan) agreed to accept that her illness was work-related, entitling her to some financial compensation.
“It’s an incredibly good feeling to be told I was right after all these years,” Bjurman told news agency TT.
“I was very sick for many years but I didn’t get any help from the Social Insurance Agency because it wasn’t possible to verify that I had been infected on that particular occasion,” she added.
Bjurman, who currently works within the healthcare service in Skellefteå in northern Sweden, underwent major treatment in 2006 after seeing her condition worsen since the beginning of the decade.
After her treatment, she began to argue her case more forcefully with the assistance of Riksföreningen Hepatit C Vårdnet (‘The National Hepatitis C Care Network’).
“For me to have my case classified as a work-related injury could be a breakthrough for others who have become infected in the healthcare system,” said Bjurman, whose condition has improved considerably since her recent treatment.
According to the Hepatitis C lobby group assisting Bjurman, more than 10,000 care workers accidentally prick themselves with needles and syringes each year, though only a fraction report the incidents as work-related injuries.
“I consider that fact that Agneta Bjurman has had her infection approved as a work-related injury a victory for everybody who has been infected via prick and cut wounds in the workplace,” said Kaj Johansson, a spokesman for the Hepatitis C Care Network.