[Question #7080] Advice would be welcome, please?

9 months ago
I wonder if you can advise me on a situation, please?

A few months ago, I posted a card through a letterbox (UK type, in the door, with brushes). The brushes were stiff so I pushed my hand through to let the card drop. I ended up cutting my hand somehow, either on the brushes, or the metal frame inside. It was not a really deep cut, but it did draw blood and hurt as it healed.

I didn't think too much of this, but a few days later I ended up contracting an illness. I had a temperature between 39 and 40 celsius for about 2-3 days, lost my appetite, and about 4 days into the illness I developed a rash on my chest, arms and part of my face which lasted, maybe a day or two. I had muscles weakness for another day or so after the rash cleared up, but the total length of time of the symptoms lasted a week, and the time from when I cut my hand to the symptoms first appearing was about 6-7 days. I didn't have a sore throat during the illness, and must say I also got quite chilled one day prior which I suspect was the cause.

I was in close contact with family members during the illness and nobody contracted it.

I wondered if say a postman had cut their hand previously as I did, is it possible that blood could have been insulated from the air and temperature between the brush bristles, which are very compact and made of insulator material and may act like a kind of vacuum, and I could have contracted HIV or hepatitis? I realise this sounds silly and probably unlikely, but it has bothered me thinking about it.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
9 months ago

Welcome to our forum and thanks for your question. I happened to be on the forum at the time your question arrived so you are receiving my reply considerably more quickly than is typical for the forum. Follow up responses to clarify questions may not be quite so fast.  On one hand I want to urge you not to worry about the possibility of having been infected in this way.  No one has ever been proven to have acquired HIV through this sort of environmental exposure and I am confident that you will not be the first.  HIV is a fragile virus which rapidly becomes non-infectious upon exposure to the environment.  wounds of the sort you describe are far more likely to lead to a bacterial infection that something like HIV. 

On the other hand, this is a concern for you and I suspect that an HIV test will provide you with peace of mind.  For that reason I suggest that you get tested with one of the standard HIV antigen/antibody tests (sometimes called "4th generation" tests).  These tests are amongst the most accurate of all tests in medicine and are absolutely conclusive when performed more than 6 weeks following an exposure and are readily available.  For this reason, if you have lingering doubt after reading this reply, testing once may be reasonable. 

I do not have a good explanation for your illness around the time of this event but I am confident that you did not acquire HIV from it.   I hope that this reply is helpful to you. If any part of my answer is unclear, please don't hesitate to use your up to two follow-ups for clarification.   EWH

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9 months ago
Hello Dr. Hook, Thank you for your reply, and assessment. I do have one question, which I know you have already answered really, but for peace of mind, it also makes no difference if the bristles were ultra compact, i.e. no air between? I was mainly concerned if it was similar to a needle/syringe, i.e. like a vacuum, but I did a little research and it seems the quantity, if any blood was there, would not be sufficient and even in a vacuum any virus would not last long in a small quantity?

With regard to a test, I also recently took an enzyme health supplement called serrapeptase. That wouldn't influence a test result would it, as I heard it can dissolve certain proteins? I know antibodies are composed of protein so it occurred to me.

Thanks for you help and time, I do appreciate it!
Edward W. Hook M.D.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
9 months ago

Actually, the compact nature of the bristles works against the theoretical risk for transmission.  With needles, the possibility of hollow needles retaining blood inside the needle has been suggested to contribute to the possibility of transmission.  I really think this was a no risk event.

Health supplements such as serrapeptase would have no impact on test performance.  EWH

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8 months ago
Thank you. I realise I am asking a few things, but I just want to get it out, as my replies are limited. I hope that's ok, and I don't wish to annoy, as I realise you have other questions and work.

I guess I was thinking with regard to the bristles, they would move then flip back against each other quickly, trapping any fluid, and the time would be so small for environmental effects,

That's good to hear with regard the to supplement, as it occured to me. Out of interest, would an antibody test detect antibody fragments? I read a bit about fragmentation, but it is quite technical for a lay person. Also no other things would interfere with a test, i.e. bleach on skin/cut skin, etc? I ask as I sometimes have to do related work.

I am cheered by your assessment, and again thank you.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
8 months ago
Regarding the bristles, once again I think you are overthinking this. The idea that somehow the bristles would hold on to blood which may have been there which would then infect you is purely hypothetical without any factual basis. Rather than argue this, once again I urge you to put it behind you by getting a test so that you can lay the matter to rest.

I am not sure why you are concerned about antibody fragments. Antibodies are microscopic proteins which do not necessarily break apart or, when they do are quickly removed from the bloodstream.  There are no supplements, medicines, or other ingested materials Other than medication specifically designed for the treatment of HIV which are known to interfere with the performance of HIV test. If you choose to test, you should believe the results.

This response will complete this thread. As per Form guidelines we provide up to three responses to each client’s questions. This is my third response. The scammer this thread will be closed shortly without further responses. I hope that the information I have provided is helpful to you. Take care. Please don’t worry. EWH
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