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blood under fingernail
Jun 16, 2008

I know you get swamped with many questions but I couldnt find another like mine which is why I am asking again:

As a nurse I had a patients blood drop onto my thumb and go under my thumbnail ( I am mad at myself for being in a hurry and not using gloves)I washed my hands and reviewed the patient's chart to find no documented HIV or any other infectious diseases. His social behavior was not essentially high risk ( married, not a drug user, no trasnfusions). So although I do not KNOW his HIV status it appears that he may be ok. IF not, what is the likelyhood that I would contract HIV in the manner I described? I had no visible cuts, although my skin gets kind of dry on the ends of my fingers, but not to the point of bleeding at all. My supervisor feels I need to get a baseline test and then go from there. Is this just precautionary or is there a real risk that I should be concerned about?

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hi,

All potential occupational exposures should be reported to occupational health and an incident report should be filed. Your risk would then be documented and you would be given advice about testing or PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) if needed. All healthcare facilities have policies and procedures in place for workers potentially exposed to blood-borne pathogens (hepatitis, HIV, etc.). Your supervisor shouldn't be advising you about the need for testing, but rather instructing you to follow the established guidelines for a potential occupational exposure. That said, from the limited amount of information given in your post, I would not anticipate that you had a significant exposure. You can read more about occupational exposures in the archives.

Good luck.

Dr. Bob



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