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Living With A Healthcare Worker And TB Info
Dec 11, 2012

I realize this question isn't about meds, but there isn't a forum for just basic HIV questions. I live with someone who is a respiratory therapist. I've been poz for 11 years. He told me a patient had TB. He said he never had personal contact with this patient; however, he did have the clean the equipment used for this patient. He said he wore certain medical gear, including a mask. And, the nurses who did have personal contact with the patient are now being screened for TB.

I was reading about TB from the info here on this site. It said it is transmitted from being in contact with someone infected, via sneezing, coughing, etc. However, it didn't mention touching things or being around an environment a TB patient has been. I noticed he has a huge swollen lymph node on his neck. He said he believes it popped up before being around equipment for this patient. He does have a lively social life, so it could be from something he acquired from sex, or just one of those strange nodes with no apparant cause. He said he is going to have it checked, if it doesn't go down.

Living with HIV and living with someone who deals with patients, who are very ill, does cause me a little concern. He tells me how this patient had MRSA and that patient had whooping cough. Could he have been infected from cleaning equipment used on the TB patient? The patient had a really bad case and, in fact, died. If he was infected, how long would it take before he would be infectious? I mean, he doesn't become infectious right away, right? I know there is active TB and latent. He would have to become ill with TB, before being able to infect others?

Thanks for your time. I know TB is one of the really big things we definitely want to avoid. I've been tested, even with the blood test, several times in the past. I just want to get more informed, instead of just taking his word that there is no way he could be infected from just cleaning the equipment.

Response from Dr. Young

Hi and thanks for posting.

Overall, it would seem that your roommate is at very low risk for infection with the TB bacillus, especially since he was not in direct contact with the suspect patient, and wore protective gear when handling the medical equipment. Indeed, it would be distinctly unusual to acquire TB from this route.

As for the enlarged lymph node or gland, there are many possible causes, from sexually-acquired things (like herpes) to a infected tooth or sinus infection. It seems reasonable that if the gland doesn't shrink in a week or two that he seeks medical evaluation.

Nevertheless, since you are someone living with HIV, speaking to your doctor about your concerns about TB exposure is reasonable- and in many positive individuals, getting screened for TB (either by skin- or blood test) is recommended.

Hope that helps. Be well, BY



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