Why HIV exposure at hospital
may have happened
A lapse in protocol for cleaning dental tools is linked to
possible HIV and hepatitis exposure at a Missouri veterans
At issue, reportedly, is that the instruments were hand-washed
before being put in a sterilizing machine. But how is that bad?
Proper procedure would have been to send them to be both
sanitized and sterilized by machine, according to CNN affiliate
An object with residual biological material on it cannot be
sterilized, said Steve Streed, member of the Association for
Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology's board of
Normally, dental instruments at the hospital would be put in a
washing device to dissolve biological debris; simply washing
with soap and water won't get it off, he said.
The sterilization process itself cleans microbes; it does not
remove debris, he said. Thus, washing the tools with soap and
water could have contributed to people becoming exposed to
This is the second recent case of a hospital alerting patients
about potential infection. This month, Palomar Hospital in San
Diego, California, sent letters to 3,400 patients who underwent
colonoscopy and other similar procedures. Items used and reused
in the procedures could have resulted in potential infection,
the letters said.