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Hepatitis Work Exposure and Risk to Family
Aug 8, 2009

Hello Doctor,

I recently left the employment of a company where I worked as a service technician who repaired dental equipment. When I began working for them 8 years ago, I asked if there were any health risks and I was told that there were not, and that no viruses live outside the human body. Since then I have learned that this is innacurate.

We took no safety precautions, other than hand washing, at work. We would often lay on the floors of dental operatories, work with waste from the suction lines, and repair unsterile equipment such as ultrasonic cleaners and sterilizers. Again, these items were not cleaned before we worked on them.

My question is not so much about my potential exposure - I'm sure I was exposed to many viruses, but I have been tested and am clean. My concern is that, because we took no precautions, that cross-contamination of items could potentially put my family at risk.

For example, if, after coming home from work and not changing, I am concerned that a virus could pass from me to a computer keyboard, telephone, chair, or book and that someone in my family could then be exposed and get sick.

I talked to my family doctor, who said that this was very dangerous and that I was putting my families lives at risk by working at that company. Then, I spoke with a public health nurse who told me there was absolutely no risk. Basically I am confused and don't know where to turn.

It has been about six weeks since I quit, so that may also factor into the answer. If there is no risk of hepatitis or hiv, what about other bugs such as MRSA?

Thank you

Response from Dr. McGovern

I agree with the nurse that your family is not at risk for hepatitis viruses. MRSA is in the community and I would not consider you to be at increased risk. IF you get a similar job I would continue your excellent hand-washing techniques and would consider changing out of your clothes before you leave work to decrease any further worries about your home.



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