Am I overreacting?
Mar 26, 2012
I work in the laboratory of a hospital which deals with people who are HIV+ on a daily basis. I process specimens in the chemistry department regularly. I've never had any blood or fluids splash into eyes, nose or mouth. I wear gloves regularly but not 100% of the time, which everyone I would with is guilty of as well. About a month ago I was getting ready to go to dinner and decided to do just one more thing before I went. I wasn't wearing gloves so I grabbed an absorbent sheet (with a plastic backing on so nothing leaks through) and popped the top off a specimen to put it in the centerfugue. After this I noticed it was a viral load test for someone. I immediately washed my hands for about a minute and then also used sanatizer before putting gloves on to finish processing. I didn't spill or get anything on my hands but I'm a bit of an over thinker to begin with and this incident put the wheels in my head in motion. Have I done this before and not realized it? Have I forgotten to wash my hands if I was in a hurry? Have I touched something and then maybe touched my face? I've never had any open cuts on my hands or come into contact with any fluids that I am aware of. I've read so muh about how it's transmitted but there is always that chance even if it is very small. Am I just way overreacting to this incident? Is there any true reason to be worried?
Response from Dr. McGowan
The incident you descibe would not put you at risk for HIV. As you point out, you had no breaks in teh skin, which is the best barrrier to HIV transmission. You washed your hands immediately. I would not have recommended PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) for what your decribe.
I do think it is best practice to use the latex gloves whenever you handle blood specimens, since there are other infections (such as syphilis and hepatitis B and C), which are more easily transmitted via blood. And it is self re-inforcing, just like hand washing.
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