[Question #1377] Blood Exposure please help

46 months ago
Hello,

I was at the hospital, and there was a small blood spot on the bed cover where I was lying, and I accidentally touched it with my wounded finger (my finger had a little fresh cut), I don't know for how much time that stain of blood was on the bed sheet, maybe it belonged to a patient before me I don't know. But when I finished my tests I saw the doctor changing all bed cover/sheets and he told me that they change them between each patient and put new ones, so the blood stain might actually be mine as I was blessed from a finger prick the doctor used to do me a blood test . 

Anyway, I'm worried, if that blood stain was not mine (everything is possible) and I touched it with a cut on my finger, is there a risk? Should I test?

Thank you
46 months ago
Just to correct (I was blessed) sorry I'm french, I meant my finger bled  when the doctor pricked it to do a blood test. 
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
46 months ago
Welcome to the forum. Your English seems fine; your question is clear.

First, I'm sure the doctor is correct, that sheets are always changed between patients, and therefore the blood almost certainly was your own.

Second, even if it was another person's blood, there is no risk for tranmission of HIV or other blood borne infections by simple contact of blood with skin. Even if you touched the blood spot with an open wound, there would be measurable risk. In order to be infected, you would have to be injured with a sharp instrument contaminated with an infected person's blood.

Accordinly, you should not be worried at all and I recommend against testing for any infection.

Best wishes--  HHH, MD

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46 months ago
Thank you 

But you said "there would be measurable risk" or you mean the inverse?

So if I go to your clinic to ask for an HIV blood test prescription would you prescribe it to me for that event?

And also, does this count as an environmental exposure?

Thanks again
46 months ago
Also I asked that question to our AIDS hotline here in France and they told me that there is no risk because the virus dies upon exposure to the air, so I want to know for how much seconds / minutes for the virus to become non-infectious when exposed to the air? Everyone tells me the same thing in medical forums like medhelp and others.
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
46 months ago
Yes, I meant "NO measurable risk". Sorry fo the error.

Yes, this would be an environmental exposure, if the blood was not your own and if contaminated with HIV. It is true that HIV dies promptly with drying. However, I am not aware of any studies on the exact time required. But that's not what matters anyway. The important thing is that nobody in the world has ever been known to be infected by such an exposure -- that is, environmental exposures to HIV almost always are zero risk. The biological reasons (drying, amount of virus, etc) don't matter.

If you came to our clinic with this story, we would advise you there is no need for testing. However, if you insisted, we would test you (after a few weeks), in the hope the negative result would be more reassuring to you. And also because everyone should be tested for HIV at least once, even if not apparently at risk. But definitely not because of this event in the hospital.

"Everyone tells [you] the same thing" in most medical forums because the experts all agree. Stick with professionally run or moderated sources, otherwise you'll easily find non-scientific information that will reinforce your fears.


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46 months ago
Just one last question to calm my fears, you say that this event has no risk and no need for testing even with the fresh cut I had on my finger when I touched the blood spot on the bed sheet? I'm worried because my pricked finger was still fresh and bleeding. (If we suppose that the blood spot was not mine).

Please I need to go on with that so I need your professional help.

H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
46 months ago
Nobody has ever been known to catch HIV from such an exposure. The only cuts or injuries by which HIV is known to have been caught were those made by contaminated instruments in medical settings. The amount of virus from a blood spot (if any virus survived at all) that could get into a wound of the size you had, no matter now fresh, probably would be far too low to transmit infection. (Almost no infections are ever transmitted by exposure to "just one virus particle", and for HIV that number is quite high. Even for unprotected sex, with billions of viruses injected deep into a woman's vagina, only one in a thousand unprotected vaginal sex events results in HIV transmission.) On top of all this, as discussed above, there is no realistic chance the blood came from someone other than yourself.

I'll make a philosophical point as well. I think we in the health professions have done a poor job educating the public about blood. Once there was a very casual attitide about it:  who cared if someone got some blood on his or her hands if helping a friend with a cut or assisting at an accident scene. That attitude, we now know, was too cavalier. However, we've gone too far the other way, and the world is now irrationally frightened about blood in the environment.  You appear to be a good example of this misunderstanding. The fact is that extremely few persons, if any, catch HIV, hepatitis B or C, or other infections from blood exposure in the environment. If it occurs, it is extremely rare.

So do your best to think logically and objectively, and accept the reasoned, science based advice I have tried to give. This is absolutely nothing to be worried about.

That completes the two follow up comments and replies with each question, and so concludes this thread. Best wishes and stay safe.

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