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HIV risks hospital workers should be aware of

Hospital workers are on the front line of providing medical care for variety of conditions, from the emergency to the chronic. As such, they routinely come into contact with potentially infections conditions. Most of these are well-known; therefore, protocols are in place to ensure that infections are not transmitted. However, accidents or errors do happen, and many healthcare workers worry about getting sick due to a possible breach.

HIV infection

One potentially devastating infection risk is the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, which erodes the immune system and destroys the body's capacity to combat disease. The reason why HIV infection remains such a frightening prospect is that it cannot be eliminated once infection sets in; it can only be managed to mitigate symptoms and delay its progress to AIDS. Thus, although reported incidents of HIV transmission in a hospital context remain extremely low, infection continues to be a concern for workers.

Low transmission risk

The risks of a hospital worker contracting HIV is relatively low. According to the CDC, exposure to sharps with HIV-infected fluids carries a 0.23 percent risk of infection; exposure from splashes carries an even lower risk than that. Typically, injury via sharp instruments or needles can happen when disposing of or handling these items. While workers are usually trained on procedure and provided with appropriate equipment, accidents do occur.

Precautions

Standard precautions against exposure include protocols for handling and discarding sharps in specially designed containers, as well as the use of appropriate protective gear in situations where coming into contact with fluids is expected. Hospitals typically develop and update training on safety precautions for infection prevention, including prevention of HIV exposure. If exposure does occur, an antiretroviral drug regimen should be implemented at once.

What to do if you have been exposed

If you think you have been exposed to a potential HIV infection, let your employer know right away. You should also seek immediate medical attention so that a physician can decide whether you need to begin taking antiretroviral drugs. This is a workplace injury that may entitle you to Colorado workers' compensation. Injured workers should be aware that they can get compensation even if the workplace did nothing wrong to cause the injury.

However, filing a claim can be a prolonged and intimidating process. You will need to submit evidence documenting the incident where you were injured as well as ensuing medical treatment. An experienced attorney can help you file your claim and handle any issues that may arise in the course of the process.

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