[Question #976] Hep C - Hiv - Stds

50 months ago

1. Last year my 4 years old son asked for a snorkeling mask by another person that we do not know. The other person threw the mask near my son and the mask went at the bottom of the sea. My son took the mask from the bottom of the sea (1 meter depth) and put the snorkel tube in his mouth for a couple of minutes. I know that hiv/syphilis cannot be transmitted by this way. What about hep c and hep b? If there was blood in the snorkel tube from the gums/mouth of the person who may have been using the mask a couple of minutes ago or the previous days, could these diseases have been spread to my son, if he also had blood in his mouth?  Since the mask was on the bottom of the sea for only a couple of seconds, would the sea water have efficiently diluted/inactivated any wet or dried blood left on the tube making the transmission impossible or not?

2. Recently I had my blood drawn by a nurse. 10 minutes after I left the lab, the nurse called me and asked me to come back and give some extra blood, because she needed extra quantity to perform the test. I went back (20 minutes after the first blood draw) and the nurse, while trying to find a different vein on my same hand, touched with her hand the puncture wound that had been caused by the needle 20 minutes before (I had already taken of the plaster). I noticed that her hand may have had some small cracks or it may had been a little red, without though noticing any visible blood. Could this contact with my 20 minutes old puncture wound have transmitted hiv / hep c / hep b or syphilis?

3. Searching reputable sites on the web, I have noticed that they mention that hep b/c can live for days on inaminate objects, while you mention that these virus die immediately outside the body. Can you confirm or explain?

I know that both scenarios are pretty unrealistic, but I want to ease my anxiety based on scientific data.


 


H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
50 months ago
Welcome to the forum. Thanks for your question.

You are correct that these scenarios are unrealistic. There is absolutely no risk for the infections you mention. Nobody ever shows up in clinics or doctors' offices with these infections if they have not had the traditional sexual or blood-related exposures, like sharing contaminated needles. Never by the indirect kinds of contact you describe.

1) The chance the previous user user had hepatitis, and that there was blood in his or her mouth, are extremely low, probably near zero. Even if those things happened, simple dilution with seawater would wash away any virus, saliva, blood, etc. There is no risk at all.

2) Nobody ever gets blood borne infections from having blood drawn. It used to happen in distant past years, when needles were re-used and not sterilized between patients. But it hasn't happened since. And even if the nurse were infected, she can't transmit any of these viruses by touching skin, even if her had had "small cracks" or via a needle puncture wound.

3) It does not matter whether or how long these viruses live outside the body. The important thing is that these infections are NEVER caught from a contaminated environment. The biological reasons don't matter: it just doesn't happen.

I hope that has helped. Best wishes--  HHH, MD

---
50 months ago
Dear Doctor,
Thank you for your reply.
Please allow me one clarification. 
If the snorkel tube had not fallen at the bottom of the sea and there was no dilution from sea water, would there be any chance for hep c transmission?
If the hand of the nurse with blood on it touched my skin, at the exact point where the cut from the first needle existed, would that be absolutely safe for any std (hiv, hep b/c and syphilis)? 
Is a 20 minutes cut from a needle considered a closed cut?
Thanks
50 months ago
Further to my last. The contact of the nurse's hand with my previous cut was direct. You seem to refer only to indirect contact.
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
50 months ago
The hepatitis C virus is not acquired by mouth, so that's for sure not an issue. You could swallow quite a bit of HCV infected blood and not catch it.

Is there some theoretical chance the events you describe could result in transmission of HIV or a hepatitis virus when blood is drawn? Maybe yes. But this has never happened, so why worry about it?

Please do not mention these fears to your family, especially your children. You should not contaminate their minds with such unreasonable concerns. Neither you, they, nor anyone else ever is at risk for these infections except for sex and sharing drug injection equipment with other people.


---
50 months ago
Dear Doctor, 
One final clarification.
You mentioned that hcv is not transmitted by  swallowing blood through the mouth. 
Does that mean that a small amount of blood on the snorkel coming in direct contact with a cut-bleeding gum in the mouth area is absolutely no risk as well?
 that will be my last question.
thank you for your help. 
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
50 months ago
Once again you re forcing me into the answer you do not want to hear. Is it POSSIBLE you could get HCV by oral exposure if you had a cut in the mouth? Maybe. Has it ever happened? Probably not.

I am trying hard to give you science-based, reasoned, reassuring answers but you keep looking for answer to confirm your irrational fears.

YOU WILL NEVER GET HBV, HCV, OR HIV IF YOU DO NOT HAVE HIGH RISK UNPROTECTED SEX AND IF YOU DO NOT SHARE DRUG INJECTION EQUIPMENT WITH OTHER PEOPLE. DISREGARD ALL OTHER POSSIBILITIES.

That ends this thread. Best wishes. Try to stop worrying.

---