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Law Enforcement Question
Jul 22, 2002

I am a police officer in MD. Recently, I was involved in an altercation with a suspect in which they sustained a facial laceration and I received several small surface scratches and cuts to my hand and wrist. These cuts and scratches came into contact with the suspect's blood. A preliminary screening at the local hospital indicated the individual was not HIV positive. The results for hepatitis did not come back. What are the chances of a fasle negative? What are the chances of contracting HIV or Hepatitis through the contact described above?

Response from Dr. Fried

The risks of acquiring a blood borne virus in this situation are small. Even a direct needlestick into the skin from an HIV-infected person will transmit HIV ~3 times out of 1000 (0.3%). For HCV, maybe 3/100 (3%). If you received the HBV vaccine and have demonstrated immunity to HBV, then you cannot get infected with HBV. I assume you have reported your injury to your employer. You should get baseline blood work done on yourself, if not already done, to show the absence of infection and then follow your department's guidelines for monitoring over the next 6 months. Of course, if hepatitis tests on the suspect are positive, monitoring and follow-up and the potential for HBV prophylaxis must be considered. This should be discussed with your department MD.



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