Exposure to Body Fluids (Non-Healthcare Worker) 

Two serious illnesses can be spread through exposure to body fluids:

  • HIV

  • Hepatitis (types B, C, and D)

Most people exposed one time to the body fluid of a person infected with HIV or hepatitis don't get the virus. But you should take exposure very seriously. Both HIV and hepatitis virus infection can lead to long-term (chronic) illness and death.

The risk of infection depends on the type of exposure. It also depends on whether the HIV or hepatitis is being treated in the infected person. The table below lists the risk for getting HIV after exposure. But your risk may below if the person with HIV has their infection well controlled (undetectable) for 6 months or more.

Type of exposure to + HIV source

Risk

Needle stick

 3 out of 1,000 exposures

Needle sharing with injecting a drug         

 7 out of 1,000 exposures

Anal, vaginal, or oral sex

1 or less per 1,000 sex acts, but for receptive anal intercourse it is 1 per 200 sex acts

Receptive anal sex

138 out of 10,000 exposures

If you have not been vaccinated against hepatitis B, the risk of becoming infected with hepatitis B or C after a single exposure is much higher than with HIV. For needle stick or sexual exposures, the risk is 6 to 30 out of 100 exposures for hepatitis B. The risk of becoming infected after similar exposure to someone with active hepatitis C is 1 to 10 out of 100 exposures.

If you are in a sexual relationship, discuss your exposure and its risks with your partner. Consider not having sex or using condoms until you know that the person who exposed you is negative, or your follow-up testing is done. Also try not to get pregnant during this time. Don't donate blood, tissue, or semen. If you are a woman who is breastfeeding, discuss the risks to your baby with your healthcare provider .

Testing

The first testing for HIV and hepatitis status will be done on you today. If the HIV and hepatitis status of the person you were exposed to is not known, try to make sure to have that person tested. If that person is positive or unknown, and your results are negative, you will need to have more blood tests at a later time to find out if infection has occurred. It can take up to 3 months for blood tests to turn positive for hepatitis. If HIV infection has occurred, the test usually becomes positive by 3 months after exposure. But a positive result could rarely be delayed up to 4 to 6 months after exposure. So you may need repeat HIV testing in 6 and 12 weeks, and possibly again at 4 to 6 months after exposure. If tests are negative for hepatitis and HIV on final follow-up testing, you can assume that you were not infected as a result of this exposure.

Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP)

To protect you from hepatitis B, treatment will depend on the status of the person who exposed you, and whether you have been previously vaccinated. If you have not been vaccinated, you can get the first dose of the vaccine series today.

There is no preventive treatment or vaccine for hepatitis C or D.

Based on how recently the exposure occurred, the type of  exposure, and the risk of HIV in the person who you were exposed to, you may need preventive treatment with antiviral medicine. Treatment consists of 3 oral medicines taken 1 to 2 times a day for 4 weeks. You should start the treatment as soon as possible after the exposure. That means within 24 to 72 hours when possible. Since treatment may be started before test results are known, it can be stopped if the test results of the person who exposed you are negative.

Facts you need to know before making a treatment decision

  • There is limited information about how well the medicines work that are used for post-exposure prevention (prophylaxis) in people without HIV infection. But the treatment does seem to lower the risk of getting HIV after exposure.

  • The antiviral medicines are often safe to take in the short term. Serious side effects have rarely occurred.

  • Be sure you understand the risk of passing on the disease and the risks of treatment before making your decision. If you are not sure, ask for more information.

  • You may refuse or stop post-exposure medicines at any time.

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Unexplained fever over 100.4°F (38.0°C), or as advised

  • Swollen lymph glands

  • Sore throat

  • Rash

  • Muscle or joint aching

  • Prolonged or recurring diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting

  • Frequent headaches

  • Dark urine or light colored stools

  • Jaundice (yellow color to skin or eyes)

  • Abdominal pain

  • Unusual and prolonged fatigue

© 2000-2021 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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