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cut on skin question...please help
Jul 10, 2003

Dear Nancy, I have a question about a incident that happened at work the other day that is worrying me sick. I own a distribution company and was working in my warehouse with one of the workers. He had cut himself on his finger and had then taken some packing tape to cover his cut. About 30 minutes later not thinking I used the tape roll that he used to cover his cut. I also thought of him using the gun immediatley and put the tape down and noticed a very small little nick (cut) on my finger. I am worried that his blood (very little) may have come into contact with my cut. I am wooried that he may have HIV. He did tell me when I asked that he did have hepatitis years ago but it went away and has been negative for about 10 years from it. What is the risk of catching HIV or Hep a,b,c. I thank you in advance for your valued response. Regards.

Response from Ms. Breuer

First of all, dried blood presents no risk of HIV infection. Oxygen is a great enemy of HIV.

The only hepatitis that "goes away" is hepatitis A, which is food-borne and water-borne, makes one miserably sick for a week or two, and then is over. Both B and C are bloodborne and chronic, and can be transmitted from dried blood.

Have you been vaccinated against hep B? The vaccination has an effect even if taken AFTER the exposure. Given the nature of your work, it might be a good idea. Check with your physician about this. There is no vaccine for C. I think your risk is quite low. But I do recommend follow-up with your health care provider or someone who specializes in infectious diseases, since I'm not a physician.

And now to taping a cut. The best move you could make right now would be to set a first aid policy that reflects what we know about bloodborne diseases in 2003. Bleeding cuts get washed with soap and water, and then bandaged with an appropriate (and large enough) bandage. Your guys will think this is overkill. Tell them they need to get over it. There have been cases of hepatitis B infection from contact with dried blood on manila file folders, days after the blood was left there. Any spilled blood gets cleaned up by either the person who spilled it or someone wearing latex or rubber gloves. Anyone who gives first aid to a colleague does it wearing latex gloves.

You can use an existing first aid policy from a similar business (your professional or trade association will have examples) and either explain it yourself or bring in a first aid trainer from a place like the Red Cross. Too much time? How much time would you spend defending yourself against an employee who claimed to have acquired hep B on the job?

I'm not trying to exaggerate risk here. I'm trying to help you avoid future trouble. Can you do these things?



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