[Question #7458] #7436 follow-up - paramedic/EMT uniform risk

4 months ago
Hello again Dr. Handsfield,

Last week you so very kindly answered my question #7436 in full, in which you reassured me I do not need to be concerned about any increase in someone in my family's risk of contracting via household transmission any bloodborne diseases or STDs, regardless of what medical conditions they have (since any increase would not be material). This was very reassuring.

However it led me to think about my sister who is a paramedic/EMT, and lives with my parents who suffer from numerous chronic health conditions. My sister wears her uniform to and from work, and washes it at home, however I've never seen her uniform with blood etc on it, so not sure if the health service would have protocols for not bringing uniforms home in that condition. I live in very developed first-world country (so think health service like the UK NHS or comparable to US hospitals).My parents however regularly wash my sister's uniform, and have stitched/knitted and made other repairs to it in the past.

So I just started wondering - given my sister no doubt encounters many patients who may be bleeding etc, is there any material risk to my parents of contracting a bloodborne disease or STDs from her uniform? Especially if they have other chronic health conditions? Sorry if this sounds silly to worry about but I now thinking a lot about it, for ease I break my questions down:

1. Is this a risk to worry about? I've never read in the news etc a family member contracting bloodborne disease or STDs from washing or stitching/knitting paramedic or nurse's uniform. Is this because the risk is so low or because health authorities in developed first-world  countries would not allow blood-soaked uniforms to be washed at home? (Or is it in fact both of these).

2. My parents have chronic health conditions. You kindly explained in your last answer to #7436 that the risk of household transmission of bloodborne diseases would not be materially impacted by any medical conditions (even rare ones). Would this still be the case for the risk from my sister's uniform?

Thankyou again very much Dr.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
4 months ago
Welcome back to the Forum although I’m sorry that you felt the need.  The scenarios you describe are no risk situations.  HIV is transmitted only through penetrative sexual contact or injection of contaminated material deep into tissue.  Infection is not transmitted through contact with inanimate objects, including clothing, toilet seats or surfaces, even when contaminated with blood.  Thus:

1.  See above.  The sorts of exposure you describe are not risk factors for HIV.  The reports you have found are incorrect.

2.  Your parents chronic health problems in no way change the statements found above.

Hope this helps. EWH 
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4 months ago
Hello Dr. Hook, thank you so much for your response. I only have the following questions:

a) You mention HIV, does this lack of any material risk via these exposures also apply to other bloodborne diseases like Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C? And HTLV? And also any STDs generally?

b) So regardless of any medical conditions or medications they are taking,  this wouldn't impact the risk at all materially for these types of exposures for bloodborne diseases or STDs? (i.e. I don't need to worry about it)

Thankyous so much Dr. Hook. I very much appreciate your help in explaining this.

Edward W. Hook M.D.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
4 months ago
Please don’t overthink this.  Brief follow up replies:

1.  My replies cover all STIs and blood born infections.  No risk from contamination of clothing.
2.  Correct.

Hope this helps.  The reasons these infections are called SEXUALLY transmitted infections is because they are sexually transmitted or, in some instances also transmitted by injection deep into the body.  Casual contact does not transmit them.  EWH 
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