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HIV and mucous membrane exposure
Jul 23, 2005

I work at a pediatric clinic. Today after I centrifuged some blood from a 17 year old black male I was putting it into cryovials. I am not sure but I think I may have splashed some in my eye. The pipette I was using had formed a bubble on the end and when I pushed the air it caused the bubble to pop. I am not sure if I it got into my eye or if my blinking was just a reaction. I know that it popped a couple of spots of the clear sera onto the counter because I saw them. They were a little bigger than a period in one of these sentences so if it did pop into my eye that would have been about the same amount that got into my eye. I am about to lose my mind over this possible exposure. Please tell me what my risks are of getting HIV. I do not know the HIV status of this young man whose blood I had centrifuged. Also, would the amount of time that the blood had been outside his body (45 minutes) and the fact that it had centrifuged for 20 minutes (included in the 45 total minutes above) have lowered any possible risks? Please answer my question as quickly as you can. I need to know if I need post-exposure prophylaxis, etc. Also, I am really losing it over this and I need an answer PLEASE. I can barely type this words for shaking so much at the thought of what happened. Thank you so much for your quick response.

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hello,

All occupational exposures (or potential exposures) should be reported to the appropriate division of your laboratory/medical facility so that an evaluation of risk to bloodborne pathogens can be undertaken and treatment offered if warranted. All medical facilities should have policies and procedures in place for the evaluation and management of occupational exposures to bloodborne pathogens (HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C).

That said, your HIV risk from this incident appears minimal at best. We do not know the HIV status of the patient. You are not sure if the serum came into contact with your mucous membranes and the specimen had been processed for 45 minutes before the incident. For such minimal risk, it is questionable that post-exposure prophylaxis would be recommended.

Once again, I do suggest you report the incident and follow the policies and procedures in place at your institution. It may be possible to test the source patient if there is ongoing concern about your exposure and/or his status.

To sum up, this is no reason for panic. Just follow the guidelines established for evaluation and management.

Good luck.

Dr. Bob



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