[Question #7398] STD risk from soiled equipment

5 months ago

Hello experts!


I have a question over a concerning situation. 

Last week I did a finger prick blood HIV test for peace of mind. It was the Insti brand. Upon opening the package, the lancet/needle and plastic capillary pipette flung out and onto the floor. 

The nurse insisted I would be safe because the lancet’s needle is covered by a safety thing she pulls off. I am not worried about this part. 

This is my concern though - the pipette. 

The pipette slurps up the beads of blood from my finger, but I’m freaking out if it had come into contact with my small open wound/finger prick. If it had come into contact, what is my risk of catching any bacterial/viral STD, including herpes? I heard STDs can live on surfaces and I got the test done at an STD clinic.

God knows what could have been on the floor!


Please give me your expert advice if I should be worried that I got something; and if so, what should I get tested for?

A different nurse and doctor from the clinic told me I have nothing to worry about, but from this situation I don’t believe them! 

(I did report the nurse and she got spoken to). 

H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
5 months ago
Greetings. Thank you for your confidence in our services.

All STD bacteria and viruses, including HSV, die and become non-infectious when they dry. They also evolved to require sex itself -- i.e. maximally intimate contact -- for transmission. (If they could be transmitted as easily as colds, flu, infectious diarrhea, etc they wouldn't be classified as sexually transmitted!) Further, regardless of the biological reasons -- or the seeming plausibility of being infected by a contaminated instrument -- there has never in history been a reported case of this happening. Similarlly, household contacts of persons with these infections do not catch them, even after years of sharing toilets, kitchens, towels, eating utensils, and so on. The only exposure that comes remotely close to the situation you are concerned about would be using the same needle or lancet that had just been used by an infected person. Aside from that, the only known sharp instrument injuries known to transmit HIV or viral hepatitis have occurred in health care providers while caring for infected patients, like doing surgery, giving an injection, etc.

For these reasons, I agree with the advice you had from both nurses and the doctor you spoke with. You really needn't be worried at all and certainly do not need to be tested for any infection on account of this event.

I hope these comments are helpful. Let me know if anything isn't clear.

HHH, MD
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