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Medical Technologist w/Hangnails...
Jun 29, 2005

Hi Doc, I've got a question that I'm not sure has been asked/answered in the forum, so I watned to go straight to the source. I am a medical technologist in a large hospital. Two weeks ago, one of the units called to add a test to a patient's sample that had been stored in a fridge for approx. 4 hours (drawn in a "tiger" top/SST tube - serum separated from cells via gel barrier). I popped the top off the tube and set it on the counter and aliquoted the sample. When I went to put the cap back on, I accidentally touched the inside of the cap with my middle finger, which happened to have a couple of hangnails on it. I immediately ran the area in question under running water and then used an alcohol hand foam to cleanse the area. My question is, could HIV be spread in this manner? If so, what are the odds? Better or worse than a needlestick? Thanks in advance for your time and advice!

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hi Med. Tech.,

No, the incident you describe would not pose a significant risk for HIV transmission. But if you are working with blood samples, you should be wearing gloves. And for future reference, if you ever do have an occupational exposure, you should report it immediately for documentation, evaluation, testing and treatment.

For now, I'd recommend two things:

1. Review the "universal precautions" guidelines and your hospital's policy for occupational exposures.

2. Get a manicure!

Stay well. Stay safe.

Dr. Bob



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