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May 28, 2010

Dr. Bob,

I will try not to make this too long. But basically, I am in nursing school and was taking my usual run alongside a river here. It's always pretty crowded when I go with people walking dogs, jogging, playing with their kids, flying kites, whatever. Anyway, I was running and up ahead saw an older couple (60s maybe?) walking along and the man COLLAPSED!! He just fell, right in line of my vision, and was clutching his chest. I immediately sprinted over to him, handed the woman my cell phone and told her to dial 911. She was panicking but managed to do it, and while she was doing that I stayed with the man, kept his head elevated and made sure he maintained an open airway but there was really nothing else I could do till help came. I did notice he had quite a bit of bleeding from on his left arm from his fall, and I used my jacket to try to stop it.. in the process I got a small amount of his blood on my hand. It wasn't a lot of blood but enough to make me worried. (I didn't really worry till after it was all over cause it was so surreal...) This happened about a week ago and I didn't really think about the blood till now. I don't recall having any cuts on my hand where it got on but I just can't remember. I get hangnails pretty often and I think I probably had one at the time. When the ambulance came, I was able to wash off my hands with some alcohol foam one of them gave me a few minutes after the blood got on me.

All I know about this man is he is 63, had a massive heart attack, and has had heart surgery before and prostate cancer. I overheard the wife talking with the paramedics.

Should I be tested for HIV and hepatitis?? I am extremely worried. I know the likelihood of this man having HIV is slim, but HIV does not discriminate and you never know. Given the situation I described, am I at risk?? Should I get a test at 3 months? Someone help me, I am freaking out SO bad here!

I have asked a couple other people considered to be experts or at least very knowledgeable on this, and they told me that in order for me to have contracted HIV from this scenario, I would have had to have actively bleeding cuts and a substantial amount of blood enter the cut. Is this true?

Thanks so much for you time; I'm so very worried. :( I hope you are doing well.

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hi Nursing Student,

I absolutely agree with the advice you've received suggesting your HIV and hepatitis risk is essentially nonexistent. HIV and other blood-borne pathogens can not permeate intact skin (even with hangnails). Neither testing nor worry is warranted. Thanks for being a good samaritan and helping someone in need. It's a great way to build up excellent cosmic karma! I will take exception to your description of "60s" as "being older!" Sixty is the new forty. Although if that were literally true, I guess you'd still be in kindergarten.

Be well. Stay well.

Dr. Bob

PEP...Dr. Said No.
Risk of infection

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