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tagging gun needle stick, please answer real exposure please
May 27, 2013

I work for a retail company that uses tagging guns.I was tagging some comforters after tagging yhrough about five comforters I pricked my right index finger.It started to blled so I squeezed it put sanitizer on it went and washed it.I then went back to work.I had an associate tell me that another associte poked himself like 10 to 15 days ago and that he was hiv positive.I went and confronted associate he said its been tok long to remember when it happened but that I shouldn't worry.I am so upset at his noncaring attitude and careless nature. I called cdc they said that they recommend pep for all occupational needle sticks. I called my doctor but he's on vacation, spoke to nurse and she said that its not considered exposure that pep would not be needed.She said that virus dies within seconds and said not to worry.But cdc recomdatiin got me worried.I called aids vancouver and councelor (dr.) Told me to ignore cdc because even though thwy do great work they use scare tactics to prevent infections.This happened 48 hours ago.The tagging gun has a needle cover that goes over needle when not in use.My concern is the cover helped keep virus alive..please help me I am married with three children and fourth on way haven't slept in two days.Should I worry?Please doctors help answer this. I tried talking to gentleman that has hiv and he seems scared to tell me information I need that is when he stuck himself. I guess its over 4 days but closer to ten maybe more but he won't help me narrow down a more accurate date. Please help. I'm on pep and feel horrible.

Response from Dr. Wohl

Given what you describe, I would NOT recommend PEP. First of all, the prior alleged exposure was days (!) before. There is no way HIV can survive for that long on a tagging device that I assume has been used on plenty of comforters in the interim.

Further, the CDC does not recommend PEP is all cases of occupational needle sticks. There are many instances where the risk is so low that PEP in not needed (solid bore needles that are not hollow carry an extremely low risk of infection).

Lastly, PEP is not without its adverse effects, as you now know, and it sounds like a combination of poor advice and lots of worry has led you to take medicines that are making you feel ill and that you do not need.

At this point you can take my word for it or find someone local who is knowledgable (local university infectious diseases clinic, for instance) to tell you the same thing. (PS, if your doc does not have a colleague covering while he/she is on vacation, get a new doctor).

DW



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