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Risks in the Workplace
Nov 18, 2004

Dear Nancy,

I recently began a new job in a hospital, but not with direct patient contact. I am concerned at the risk of transmission in the workplace if I came into contact with blood and being non-patient oriented I did not have gloves on? I know the risk is very small if any, but what if I had a open cut on my body that came into contact with someone else's blood? Please help me understand about my risks here. From what I can gather, contact as described above must be direct contact, meaning blood must come out of one person's body and go directly into the other's. Is my observations correct? I would appreciate all your help and guidance into understanding this route of transmission and any routes I should be concerned about working in the hospital. Thank you Nancy and great job!!!

Response from Ms. Breuer

Your understanding is correct. You would need to come into direct, immediate, intimate contact with an HIV-positive patient's blood, and that blood would need an immediate point of entry into your bloodstream. The odds are quite remote, aren't they?

Risks of transmission in hospitals are largely associated with sharps that have not been disposed of properly. If you can get a handle on correcting that, you'll have much of the HIV and hepatitis transmission risk conquered.

p.s. Since you do work in a hospital, why not make it a habit to carry a pair of latex gloves in your pocket? It's easy, and it might put your mind at ease, too. I carry them in my purse all the time.

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