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Risk of HIV+ Vet Assistant transmitting to coworkers through animal scratches/bites?
Jul 5, 2004

We have an HIV+ Vet Assistant who is very prone to getting scratched and bit. If an animal scratches him and then immediately scratches me, is that similar to needle transmission? Are the owners at risk, and for how long? There is really no way to protect against that without looking like an ER, or prevent him from handling animals unless handling alone. Today he pulled a claw out of his arm and put it on the counter laughing. By law, can we ask him to not handle animals anymore?

Response from Ms. Breuer

No, it's nothing like needle transmission, and no, the owners are not at risk. You have no reason to worry about HIV transmission via an animal. No monkeys, no mosquitoes, and no animal scratches transmit HIV. To put your mind at ease, wash out scratches with soap and water soon after they occur--which I'll bet you do anyway.

To ask him not to handle animals anymore would be to deprive him of a job. That invites an EEOC complaint, or a suit based on the Americans with Disabilities Act, which you would lose. If he is otherwise qualified to do the job, depriving him of the job based on this particular disability would constitute discrimination. Why? Because he poses no risk to the health of others at work, scratched or unscratched. I assume that if anyone's scratch is serious enough to require bandaging, you insist on that anyway, and that no human blood remains on work surfaces after such accidents, right? Then you're doing all you need to do to prevent transmission of bloodborne infections.

Please check out some of the materials about transmission on this site to put your mind further at ease.



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