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Right to know - Bitten by a child
Oct 31, 2002

My wife is a school teacher. A four year old student bit her on the leg breaking the skin and causing bleeding. The bite was through a light pair of cotton pants.There was saliva on the pants, but don't know if there was any on/in the wound. The school my wife works for will not give out any info regarding the childs medical condition, will notindicate if the child had the required shots for hepatitus. They will not even provide the phone number of the parents so we can follow-up. My two questions are: 1)What are the chances of being infected with HIV/AIDS,hepatitus,etc. by a bite like this? 2)Does my wife have a legal "Right to Know" about the childs health status, or even the parents phone number?

Response from Ms. Breuer

Your wife is in a position she shares with police officers, firefighters and paramedics in most jurisdictions. It's infuriating, isn't it? But the most important variable is one your letter doesn't mention: how long ago did this happen? Has your wife been tested? That's the part she has control over.

I assume the tests would be done at the school's expense, since this is an on-the-job injury. It is unlikely that infection would take place in the scenario you describe, and hepatitis is more likely than HIV. An HIV infection would require one of the child's infectious fluids to make contact with your wife's bloodstream, and that did not happen. Saliva doesn't transmit HIV. Hepatitis transmission through saliva is possible, but a remote risk.

Rather than pursuing an infectious disease argument, which you can resolve simply with a couple of tests that most likely will be negative, I'd suggest vigorously pursuing help for this child. A bite that draws blood is an indicator of big present and future problems.

To address the "right to know" language of your question: no, there is no right to know in this situation. There is every right to get tested, and thus know the bite victim's situation. And you have every right to pursue assertively a course of action at the school that will offer psychiatric evaluation of the child. I hope the child gets help soon.

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