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Unsafe Syringe From Foreign Doctor- Please Help
May 8, 2009

hello doctor,

I need to ask this of you before I go any further and possibly set off a ridiculous commotion over nothing. Please let me know if in your opinion this merits testing. My fiance had gone to Mexico with her parents for a family vacation. However, whilst there she contracted the flu (this was pre-swine outbreak, thank god) and went to her hotels resident doctor. Upon examination, she was presented with an injection in her rear of some type of noninflammatory drug to remedy her symptoms, which was administered from the hotels doctor. I have no idea what the mexican health care industry is like, but from what I've been told by my doctor that the injection probably had limited medical benefit and was most likely given so as to charge her a premium for the care, a common practice in Mexican doctor when dealing with travelers at fancy hotels. My worry is that in Mexico, a country known for unclean water, drug violence and disease outbreaks; that the doctors might not practice the use of sterile syringes in giving injections. When asked whether or not she demanded assurance of a clean syringe, she said the doctor didn't really speak any English (what possessed her to accept medicine from this person, i haven't the slightest). I was wondering if you could shed light on whether or not mexican medical protocol dictates the use of clean needles, and if we should get her tested for HIV and hepatitis. I attempted to find an official doctrine online, but only found a presentation by the Mexican ministry of medicine, which was wrought with spelling errors and looked as if a 10 year old made it (which only makes me more more nervous). Keep in mind that this was the private doctor in a resort hotel (as opposed to a bodega, traditional healer or something of the like) but I still wish to know if you know if blood born disease transmission is common when dealing with Mexican doctors and injections. I don't want to seem like I'm holding bias against Mexico or it's residents, but who knows? All you ever hear is how unsafe perscription drugs, procedures and health care is in the country.

thank you so much! i dont want to start demanding she test if its unnecessary because it will only worry her sick, but I also can't stand the idea of letting this go unknown.

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hi,

While I agree a shot in the butt for flu symptoms is most likely not warranted, your fears about unsterile technique and possible transmission of bloodborne pathogens at Mexican resort hotel medical facilities is equally unwarranted. Universal precautions to prevent transmission of bloodborne illnesses are now standard of care practice in all developed nations. Sure you may get a walloping case of Montezuma's Revenge from eating at Paco's Ticky-Tacky-Tacos stand but HIV from an injection given by a Mexican doctor at a resort hotel? No way Jose! Testing is not warranted. I see absolutely no cause for concern or "setting off a ridiculous commotion."

Dr. Bob



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