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Exposure : is it the mind or Infection?

Apr 5, 2013

Hi Dr. Fawcett,

I was handling HIV virus a few weeks ago in a Bio-Safety 2 cabinet and one of the pipette tips fell on my double gloved hand and I felt a sting on my hand. I washed the area immediately and did not see any wounds. I know HIV needs blood to infect an individual but I am just a bit paranoid (although I believe there is zero chance for me to get infected). I have experienced neck pain and shoulder pain in the past three weeks. Do you think it is simply the mind or real infection that is causing these symptoms?

Thank you.

Response from Dr. Fawcett

Any facility handling the HIV virus surely has protocols for such incidents, and they would most certainly include an evaluation for PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis with antiretroviral medications). They need to be administered very soon after exposure. You need to contact your healthcare provider immediately to explain your situation and take any further steps (including an HIV test). You also need to follow up with your lab to follow up on this breakdown in protocol.


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