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Straight from CDC

Health Related Hoaxes and Rumors

  • I have read stories on the Internet about people getting stuck by needles in phone booth coin returns, movie theater seats, gas pump handles, and other places. One story said that CDC reported similar incidents about improperly discarded needles and syringes. Are these stories true?

    CDC has received inquiries about a variety of reports or warnings about used needles left by HIV-infected injection drug users in coin return slots of pay phones, the underside of gas pump handles, and on movie theater seats. These reports and warnings have been circulated on the Internet and by e-mail and fax. Some reports have falsely indicated that CDC "confirmed" the presence of HIV in the needles. CDC has not tested such needles nor has CDC confirmed the presence or absence of HIV in any sample related to these rumors. The majority of these reports and warnings appear to have no foundation in fact.


    CDC was informed of one incident in Virginia of a needle stick from a small-gauge needle (believed to be an insulin needle) in a coin return slot of a pay phone. The incident was investigated by the local police department. Several days later, after a report of this police action appeared in the local newspaper, a needle was found in a vending machine but did not cause a needle-stick injury.

    Discarded needles are sometimes found in the community outside of health care settings. These needles are believed to have been discarded by persons who use insulin or are injection drug users. Occasionally the "public" and certain groups of workers (e.g., sanitation workers or housekeeping staff) may sustain needle-stick injuries involving inappropriately discarded needles. Needle-stick injuries can transfer blood and blood-borne pathogens (e.g., hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV), but the risk of transmission from discarded needles is extremely low.

    CDC does not recommend testing discarded needles to assess the presence or absence of infectious agents in the needles. Management of exposed persons should be done on a case-by-case evaluation of (1) the risk of a blood-borne pathogen infection in the source and (2) the nature of the injury. Anyone who is injured from a needle stick in a community setting should contact their physician or go to an emergency room as soon as possible. The health care professional should then report the injury to the local or state health department. CDC is not aware of any cases where HIV has been transmitted by a needle-stick injury outside a health care setting.

  • False Notice about Contamination of Commercial Ice Machines
    Several restaurant associations and individual restaurants have recently received a facsimile (fax) notice about microbial contamination of commercial ice machines. The fax is labeled "Urgent Fax Notice, United States Public Health Notice, (CDC) Center for Disease Control." This is a false notice. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not issued such an alert.

All commercial ice-making machines are manufactured with a "boilerplate" statement affixed to the machine stating when and how the ice machine should be cleaned and sanitized. In addition, most companies that manufacture commercial ice- making machines provide toll-free telephone numbers for owners to obtain additional information about when and how to clean and sanitize the equipment. CDC recommends that users of commercial ice-making machines follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for cleaning and sanitizing the machines.

  • FDA and CDC Statement Concerning Rumors About Recalled Lot of Influenza Vaccine
    Rumors have been circulating that a "contaminated" lot of flu vaccine has been recalled by the FDA. This is false. No contamination of any flu vaccine has been identified anywhere in the U.S., and the FDA has not recalled any lot of flu vaccine.

Flu vaccine is routinely tested for safety, purity, and potency and all lots released have met these standards. As with any vaccine, flu vaccine is capable of causing some side effects, these are very rarely severe. Most side effects from flu vaccine are mild, such as arm soreness, redness or swelling where the shot was given, fever, or achiness. More serious reactions to the flu vaccine do occur, but they are rare.

While FDA and CDC are currently investigating several recent reports of possible significant allergic reactions to flu vaccine, it is important to note that the number and type of reactions reported to date are not unexpected. The reactions reported, not all of which may have been caused by the administration of vaccine, do not, at this time, suggest any problem with the flu vaccine. However, FDA and CDC will continue to investigate these and any other reports and will provide any further information as available. While serious reactions to flu vaccine are rare, each year about 114,000 people in the U.S. are hospitalized and about 36,000 people die because of the flu.

The flu vaccine is the best way a person can protect themselves and their loved ones against influenza. October and November are the best months to get vaccinated - however, vaccination in December or later still provides considerable protection.

For more information about influenza, go to


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