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Feb 13, 2006

O.K. I am a nurse at a hospital in North Carolina. I was checking the residual on a patient with HIV when the tube popped out and the gastric juices flew up in my face and got in my eyes. Nobody in the entire hospital seems to have an answer for this so what are the chances that I catch HIV from this type of exposure, and is HIV even transmittable from the gastric juices of a patient with HIV/AIDS?

Response from Dr. Wohl

Obviously, you do not work at UNC. This is not likely to be a risky exposure unless the gastric contents contained blood.

The US Public Health Service Guidelines (http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/rr5409a1.htm) state:

"Feces, nasal secretions, saliva, sputum, sweat, tears, urine, and vomitus are not considered potentially infectious unless they are visibly bloody; the risk for transmission of HIV infection from these fluids and materials is low."

If the patient had an undetectable viral load, that would further support this being a very low risk exposure.

Your occupational health people need to be able to access these and other relevant guidelines and to know where to get more info (hotlines, PEPlines, consults from UNC or Duke). There is no excuse for shrugs when it comes to what to do following an occupational exposure to a blood borne pathogen.

DW



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