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eye splash

Question: 

I am a HCP and during the removal of an IV in a upset paediatric patient ( between 2-5 years old) whose HIV status is unknown, I may have been splashed in the face and eye with a very small amount of blood and IV fluid that was on the tip of the catheter being removed from the pt. The drop would have flown through the air for approx. 1-2 seconds before it hit my face / eye. I did not feel an actual drop hit my eye, but I did feel little drops around my eyes. I did a eye flush and followed up with occupational health. The patient whose blood potentially splashed my eye was very low risk. Should I under go blood testing? I have been having a huge deal of anxiety about this. What were the circumstances of the other two cases where an eye splash did lead to HIV infection? I am under the impression they were splashed with massive amounts of blood in the eyes and other mucus membranes.

Thank you.

Answer: 

Hi There,

Thanks for coming to AIDS Vancouver as a resource HIV related information. First of all, we would like to thank you for the work that Health Care Providers (HCP) do.

Now to your questions: Here is some background information before we address your concerns

I am not sure what city you are located in, but typically, in most North American cities, expectant mothers and their babies are regularly screened for HIV during pregnancy. And since you were helping a young patient (2-5 years) even if the child had acquired HIV, today's health protocols would put the child on anti retro viral treatment immediately and thus making the virus undetectable. (this level poses* extremely low risk* for acquiring HIV). So this is something to consider when thinking about HIV transmission.

Now to your point: getting a drop of blood (I want to reiterate that based on your experience, it did not get in your eyes) in and around your eyes while can be a negligible risk which means that "in theory" we can make a case for it, but there has never been a single reported case of HIV transmission. Usually, when we refer to direct access to the bloodstream, we usually refer to vagina, anus, open cuts and points of needle injection. The eyes are extremely sensitive when things get into them: hence the tearing and closing of eye lids protective actions. Keep in mind, as mentioned earlier, most cases of HIV transmission today are because of unprotected anal or vaginal sex or sharing of needles. We are not seeing cases in health settings.

So, for your specific example, testing is not required. here at AIDS Vancouver we have not heard of a single case of HIV caused by blood in the eyes.

In closing, since you are working in a health care setting, partner with your team and management and see what sort of HIV and blood related education and precautions they teach and take. If you are in BC, we have an excellent HIV education program that we facilitate to organisations and health care providers. Let us know if we can offer more education for you and your team?

cheers, Jaz Helpline Volunteer