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touched an HIV infected bandage

Mar 4, 2012

Hi, I wrote in a couple of weeks ago and checked back daily for an answer to my question, as I am having great anxiety from what I perceive as a potential exposure. I didnt get an answer so, I sent another email asking if my question had been read and received an answer from your legal expert stating he was not qualified to answer. So, here I am still having anxiety and not sleeping for about a month and a half now. I go to bed thinking about it and wake up thinking about and think of it all through the day. So, please if you could answer my question as soon as possible I would be grateful. So, heres the scenario- I am a nurse and about a month and ago I was caring for a post surgical HIV + patient. The patient had a hydrocolloid dressing over the incision and a tegaderm type dressing over the old drain site next to it. I accidentally touched the hydrocolloid dressing and the clothes next to it with an ungloved hand. I immediately checked my skin and it appeared intact on my hands and fingers, I then (with a gloved hand) examined the dressings closer and they appeared clean and dry, however the patients caregiver had just changed the tegaderm dressing earlier that day , so what if they had gotten some drainage or blood on the hydrocolloid dressing or the clothing? So, my question isif it were the worst case scenario and there were an open area on my skin that I couldnt detect and the dressing or clothes had drainage on it or possibly blood I couldnt see and I touched it, what is my risk for infection? Im especially freaking out, because about 3 weeks I caught what I think is a sinus infection from my family, but many of the symptoms mimic the seroconversion symptoms- headache, sorethroat, cough, and being tired. I didnt report it to employee heath or get tested because I talked to the infection control nurse and he said intact skin meant no exposure and all of my nurse friends say the same. But my question again is what if the worst case scenario? I want an expert opinion and would appreciate one to help me move on with my life one way or the other. I cant rest and my family life is suffering due to my constant talking and worring about it. I will continue to check for an answer daily all throughout the day as I have been. I have looked at all the other questions and nothing matches. Thank-you.

Response from Ms. Southall

Hi Sorry you have not received the answer you are searching for. The worst case scenario is that you are not infected. I agree with your infection control nurse that with everything in tact and you not having an open wound there is no way for transmission. It does sound like you need peace of mind you can get tested. I would also recommend that you take an OSHA and universal precautions class that are offered for health care workers. So you can receive education on how to work with patients not just living with HIV but all types of infections and how to protect yourself.

Be well and stay safe, Shannon

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