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Author Topic: Exposure at work- Please advice  (Read 2288 times)

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Offline Nurse2013

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Exposure at work- Please advice
« on: March 26, 2013, 07:54:55 AM »
I am a nurse and was rushing to the bathroom last week during one of my shifts to put in a tampon. Usually I am very careful and always wash my hands before, but I had patients in need and was rushed. I saw there was a small spot of wet blood on the toilet upon entering so I grabbed a paper towel wiped it up and preceded to put in a tampon before completely examining my hands.
I have since been in fear I exposed myself to positive blood.

I know blood can not survive long outside of the body, and although not much, this was bright, fresh blood that if in contact with my hand, would still have been wet. Upon my anxiety filled week, I also read that being on the Depo progesterone birth control injection makes your vagina linings so thin it almost increases risk for fluids to reach the blood stream 3x's more likely. Which caused even more anxiety about the possibility of the blood from my finger or tampon applicator actually coming into contact with my vagina.

It wasn't until about an hour after I inserted the tampon that anxiety occurred and I went back into the bathroom to remove it.

Ultimately, I know the chances of transmitting HIV through bodily fluids on an inanimate object is slim, but in a hospital setting, who knows where the blood could have come from, or from who. (Granite, it is a pediatric hospital...)

Any reassurance or guidance would be much appreciated. Thanks in advance.

Offline Ann

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Re: Exposure at work- Please advice
« Reply #1 on: March 26, 2013, 08:09:20 AM »

You absolutely did NOT have a risk for hiv infection through this situation.

Hiv is a fragile, difficult to transmit virus that is primarily transmitted INSIDE the human body, as in unprotected anal or vaginal intercourse where the virus never leaves the confines of the two bodies.

Once outside the body, small changes in temperature, and pH and moisture levels all quickly damage the virus and render it unable to infect.

For this reason, blood on a toilet seat (or on any other object in the environment) is NOT viable and able to infect.

As a nurse, you should be washing your hands at every available opportunity - the lack of hand-washing amongst health care workers is the leading cause of the spread of MRSA in hospital/clinic settings.

If hand washing isn't always practical or convenient (as in your situation), you can/should use antibacterial hand wash. This can be used even as you're running down a corridor to use the toilet.

Here in the UK, all nursing staff carry a small bottle of antibacterial hand wash in a pocket or even clipped onto their uniform somewhere. Every ward, every hallway also has antibacterial wash dispensing units. Cases of hospital-acquired MRSA have dramatically decreased since these measures have been introduced in the NHS.

Again, the bottom line here is that you did NOT have a risk for hiv infection.

Here's what you need to know in order to avoid hiv infection:

You need to be using condoms for anal or vaginal intercourse, every time, no exceptions until such time as you are in a securely monogamous relationship where you have both tested for ALL sexually transmitted infections together.

To agree to have unprotected intercourse is to consent to the possibility of being infected with an STI. Sex without a condom lasts only a matter of minutes, but hiv is forever.

Have a look through the condom and lube links in my signature line so you can use condoms with confidence.

ALTHOUGH YOU DO NOT NEED TO TEST FOR HIV SPECIFICALLY OVER THIS TOILET SEAT INCIDENT, anyone who is sexually active should be having a full sexual health care check-up, including but not limited to hiv testing, at least once a year and more often if unprotected intercourse occurs.

If you aren't already having regular, routine check-ups, now is the time to start. As long as you make sure condoms are being used for intercourse, you can fully expect your routine hiv tests to return with negative results.

Don't forget to always get checked for all the other sexually transmitted infections as well, because they are MUCH easier to transmit than hiv. Some of the other STIs can be present with no obvious symptoms, so the only way to know for sure is to test.

Use condoms for anal or vaginal intercourse, correctly and consistently, and you will avoid hiv infection. It really is that simple!

« Last Edit: March 26, 2013, 08:11:28 AM by Ann »
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Offline Nurse2013

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Re: Exposure at work- Please advice
« Reply #2 on: March 26, 2013, 02:16:39 PM »

Thank you so very much for the reply. I have found reassurance.

Just to be clear. Since this hospital is busy, what if the blood had just been dropped there seconds before I entered the bathroom, literally. I know blood once dry, kills the virus. Is transmission still possible if the blood had only been the outside its host for 30 seconds?

Thanks again. I appreciate your time and knowledge.

Offline RapidRod

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Re: Exposure at work- Please advice
« Reply #3 on: March 26, 2013, 02:24:57 PM »
Do you ever read the blood-borne pathogen standard that you hospital has in place?

Offline Nurse2013

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Re: Exposure at work- Please advice
« Reply #4 on: March 26, 2013, 02:38:07 PM »
Yes. I glove for more than I even should usually. This was a very rare circumstance, due to my rushed mind set. There is no doubt I should have been more cautious, hence my anxiety. I would never intentionally potential expose myself or patients to bodily fluids. As a nurse working busy long shifts, this was just one time I did not use the best precautions.

Offline Andy Velez

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Re: Exposure at work- Please advice
« Reply #5 on: March 26, 2013, 03:19:05 PM »
You are worrying needlessly. As Ann has told you, HIV is a fragile virus. It is not passed from environmental surfaces and objects.

Let it go and get on with your life. Really.
Andy Velez

Offline jkinatl2

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Re: Exposure at work- Please advice
« Reply #6 on: March 26, 2013, 03:46:54 PM »
It is a myth that HIV must be dry in order to be inactive and incapable of transmission. The virus is quite delicate. The docking and transmembrane glycoproteins disintegrate upon exposure to oxygen and changes in temperature. Without these, HIV is incapable of transferring it's RNA into a receptive cell.

Even had you taken the piece of paper with the blood on it and immediately placed it in an area with receptor cd4 and/or dendritic cells, you would have had no risk whatsoever for HIV.

I understand you work in a pediatric hospital, so exposure to HIV positive persons might be minimal - but as a nurse I am concerned that you don't know this, or haven't used the resources of your hospital to research it yourself. As a teachable moment, I would recommend furthering your infectious disease education so that anxious moments like this will no longer happen.

"Many people, especially in the gay community, turn to oral sex as a safer alternative in the age of AIDS. And with HIV rates rising, people need to remember that oral sex is safer sex. It's a reasonable alternative."

-Kimberly Page-Shafer, PhD, MPH

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