Tuesday, May 3, 2011

‘Peace of mind’ for health and safety workers

The HIV virus dies within minutes outside the human body.

The Hepatitis C virus, on the other hand, can survive for hours, even days, in dried blood at room temperature.

So which virus would you be more likely to contract through an accidental poke by a used needle?

Until now, state law has been stuck in the 1980's, when AIDS came into the public awareness and an accidental needle poke meant possible HIV exposure. Certain classes of workers, like health and public safety personnel, could order an HIV test on a person whose blood they had been exposed to. But the person wouldn't be tested for other bloodborne pathogens, even though in the meantime, Hepatitis C became a rising public health problem.

Today, Governor Gregoire signed House Bill 1454, sponsored by Rep. Kevin Van De Wege (who is also a fire fighter and first responder). The bill brings the law into the 21st Century, allowing for testing of all bloodborne pathogens rather than simply HIV. Early testing means earlier access to treatment.

"Every day, law enforcement officers, first responders, and health care workers put themselves at risk on the job," Van De Wege said. "One needle poke brings fear of the unknown. This bill brings peace of mind."

To read this blog post in Spanish, go here.