HIV POSITIVE  Caretakers
Occupational Exposure NEW!

Risk of HIV Transmission Via Bites To Healthcare Workers Seems Low

Researchers in Virginia report that the likelihood of HIV transmission to healthcare workers as a result of a patient bite seems to be very low.

Thus far, only one case of HIV transmission through a human bite has been documented. This case was reported in The Lancet in June and involved an HIV-positive man who had a seizure and bit the finger of a neighbor who came to his aid. This community-based case raised concerns regarding the safety of healthcare workers who may encounter similar situations in a hospital setting.

Dr. Patricia M. Tereskerz and coinvestigators at the International Health Care Safety Center In Charlottesville reviewed approximately 10,000 reports of healthcare workers who were exposed to blood or body fluids. Only 1.7% of these cases involved a patient with HIV infection. And out of the 10,000 cases, only 50 involved a biting incident. Skin penetration was reported In 19 of these 50 biting incidents.

The majority of the 50 healthcare workers who were bitten were nurses. And for the 28 cases in which information was available, 14 cases involved combative patients, 10 involved children and 3 involved psychiatric patients. The other bite occurred during the removal of an orthodontic appliance.

Overall, the researchers conclude that occupational bites to healthcare workers are rare. They found that 86% of the reported bites were to the arm or hand; therefore, they suggest that risk of exposure can be reduced by the use of gloves and arm protection.

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