Ignorance, apathy cuts like a knife

We were young, some of us were barely out of high school, and it really didn't matter to us if the blood was visible or not.

Mark A. DeSorbo
Associate Editor
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It just went without saying that you would don latex gloves or any of the other recommended protective apparel-gowns, aprons, masks, or eyewear-when caring for someone who was incontinent, had vomited or injured themselves convulsing from a grand mal seizure or needed CPR because they stopped breathing.

Universal Precautions, a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) protocol, is one of the first things they teach you when you enter the human service field to prevent the transmission of HIV, hepatitis B and other blood-borne viruses. Along with blood, the CDC indicates that universal precautions apply to tissue and a number of bodily fluids, but not feces, mucous, saliva, perspiration, urine, tears and vomit, unless they contain visible blood.

Common sense tell us that blood, visible or not, is perhaps the most obvious vehicle for viruses, and that fact is reinforced with the contamination control technology that many of you employ to protect the blood supply and associated products. In the public sector, it's exemplified in ads and campaigns that stress the dangers of sharing needles and unprotected sex.

Still, some people, like the science teacher at a New Bedford, MA, junior high school, are completely oblivious.

In May of 2001, Kevin D. Cadieux, a retired seventh-grade teacher from Keith Junior High School, gave students a single-use instrument, similar to a lancing device for diabetics, to draw a drop of blood for testing. Some of the students shared the needle, which Cadieux wiped with alcohol after each use.

At the end of this past school year, a former student of Cadieux's remembered the experiment after watching an anti-drug video about the dangers of sharing needles. He then reported the incident to school officials.

“Now, about 100 students will be tested for HIV and hepatitis, even though it is unlikely the youngsters have any diseases to spread and because the needle was wiped down after each use,” says Dr. Hanumara Chowdry, a physician specializing in infectious diseases who is overseeing the testing.

The school department has seemingly pinned the blame on the teacher, an easy target in this incident, but everyone, including parents, is to blame.

The issue will be centered around whose fault it is rather than how best to empower a generation who will undoubtedly deal with some of the toughest consequences of our times-HIV and other viruses, biological terrorism, and most recently, the discovery that a virus can be manufactured with Internet blueprints and mail-order products.

The fact that dozens of junior high schools are being tested for such deadly viruses as HIV and hepatitis is grossly indicative that the general public has no concept of what the contamination-control industry does.

Perhaps, it's time they learned.



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