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Risk of HIV transmission to my 5 year old daughter? Please answer if you have time
Oct 26, 2009

Dear Dr Bob Firstly apologies for contacting you again - I promise that I will donate and take heed of your valued advice. I am the lady with OCD with 'deep seated fears' from a traumatic experience as a child in Africa. I will be taking your answers with me to my therapist tomorrow as I am certain by rereading them I will realize that I am in my "own self-induced worry hell" I am trying to lead a normal life but unfortunately my irrational worries have raised their ugly heads again. My five year old daughter wanted a pet hamster, she chose one from the pet store. The store worker took the cage away and put the hamster in a cardboard box for us to take home. She did this out the back of the store so we didn't see her placing the hamster in the box - she was quite a long time out back. About an hour later my daughter sustained a bite on the finger from the hamster as she cuddled it on the sofa. Her finger bled. The hamster bit her again the following morning and again it was quite deep and bled. My daughter continues to handle her pet very gently and it has now settled down and hasn't bitten for days. My daughter loves her pet hamster and I sure as hell don't want to let my OCD rule her life too. Children should have the opportunity to have a pet to care for. My stupid OCD worry is:

If the hamster bit the pet store worker when it was placed in the cardboard box - would there be any potential risk to my daughter being bitten about an hour later?

OK my thinking head tells me:

The hamster had chewed on its cardboard box on the way home - so any blood on its teeth would have mostly come off. Hamsters cannot (as far as I know along with other pets) host or replicate HIV. Even if the store worker was HIV + then the virus would have died off in the hamsters mouth quite quickly (although my stupid OCD searching on the internet has found studies claiming the virus can live for a long time in dried blood - but I think this was old data and also done in a lab with artificially high viral load).

Okay I will stop rambling on and taking up your time - but I would be most grateful if you could answer me. Do I need to get my daughter tested?

Is this bite the same risk as a needle stick?

Or as I suspect deep down am I worrying about nothing and just need to focus on fighting my OCD? I love my daughter so much and feel terrible if I have placed her at risk.

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hi,

Welcome back to the forum. Your suspicions that you are worrying over nothing are right on target. Once again, it's your OCD, not HIV, that's at issue. The HIV transmission risk via a hamster bite is nonexistent. HIV testing is certainly not warranted. A hamster bite has nothing in common with an HIV needle stick exposure. I agree completely with your conclusion that you need to focus on fighting your OCD!

Thank you for your donation to The Robert James Frascino AIDS Foundation (www.concertedeffort.org). It's warmly appreciated. Remember, HIV is not your or your daughter's problem, OK?

Be well! Good luck with your therapy to confront and conquer your irrational HIV fears.

Dr. Bob



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