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Significant Exposure - Health Care Workers

Mar 7, 1997

I work in an Occ.Med. Clinic. We provide for several state health care sites. Recently, when their employes are seen in the hospital ED for work related exposures,the ED doctor has been calling scratches a significant exposure. We know this is not so. What about sputum? We had a patient today that had an inpatient spit on their face - didn't think it went in their eyes. Is there a protocal for when HIV, RPR, HBsAG, and anti HBs should be drawn? I know these keep changing and it takes awhile for it to make it to all health care sites, but I would appreciate a reply as to what the criteria is today. Thank you. Marsha

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Marsha. Thank you for your question. I'm limiting this discussion to occupational exposures to blood, including possible occupational exposures to HIV, and Hepatitis B. Body fluids like sputum, saliva, urine, sweat, and tears are low risk for most infections, including HIV, unless they are visibly contaminated with blood.

After an occupational exposure, a doctor or infection control nurse would first make a determination as to the level of exposure and risk, and determine what follow-up is required. If there's been an occupational exposure, the following actions are recommended:

The exposed employee immediately report the exposure to their supervisor.

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