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Very serious breast milk health risk...Heeeeeeeelp!!
Jan 13, 2013

I am currently working as a midwife at a clinic, which has to do with mothers who have infants. My job is squeezing breast milk from patients, and I also give them breast massages using my bare hands, which is done strictly for medical purposes.

A couple of days ago, I had gotten a small open cut on my thumb while working, and didn't notice it, so I kept working without any protection. I'm afraid it was exposed to fresh breast milk.

When we have a patient with mastitis, then we must squeeze for almost an hour continuously. It's possible the cut had been covered with milk for the duration. On that particular day, I had 5 to 6 patients whose status for Hiv, Hep A, B, C, and HTLT was unknown, and had given them treatments for a total of approximately two hours. If they are carriers with any of the viruses that I had mentioned earlier, then is it also possible to get infected from breast milk with just a small, recently open cut on my thumb, which only contained a small amount of blood?

I am aware that the amount of viruses contained in breast milk is much less than blood, and if they are infected, then they probably haven't chosen to breastfeed, however I'm still very concerned. What exactly is the probability that I could be infected, or exposed to any transferable disease, or illness? Hopefully, there is someone out there, who can help to ease this troubled mind. Thank you again for all of your help, and advice.

Response from Dr. Wohl

If the cut was small I would not worry. If this was more than a scratch, I would say there is a risk here given the fairly extraordinary circumstances. I would report to your occupational health office for an assessment and undergo testing for HIV and HCV now and again per protocol in a few weeks. As a health care worker you should have already been vaccinated for HBV. Antibodies can be checked to determine if you are immune. I would not be worried about any other infections.

DW



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