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Current Trends Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS): Precautions for Clinical and Laboratory Staffs

Please note: An update has been published for this report. To view the update, please click here.

The etiology of the underlying immune deficiencies seen in AIDS cases is unknown. One hypothesis consistent with current observations is that a transmissible agent may be involved. If so, transmission of the agent would appear most commonly to require intimate, direct contact involving mucosal surfaces, such as sexual contact among homosexual males, or through parenteral spread, such as occurs among intravenous drug abusers and possibly hemophilia patients using Factor VIII products. Airborne spread and interpersonal spread through casual contact do not seem likely. These patterns resemble the distribution of disease and modes of spread of hepatitis B virus, and hepatitis B virus infections occur very frequently among AIDS cases.

There is presently no evidence of AIDS transmission to hospital personnel from contact with affected patients or clinical specimens. Because of concern about a possible transmissible agent, however, interim suggestions are appropriate to guide patient-care and laboratory personnel, including those whose work involves experimental animals. At present, it appears prudent for hospital personnel to use the same precautions when caring for patients with AIDS as those used for patients with hepatitis B virus infection, in which blood and body fluids likely to have been contaminated with blood are considered infective. Specifically, patient-care and laboratory personnel should take precautions to avoid direct contact of skin and mucous membranes with blood, blood products, excretions, secretions, and tissues of persons judged likely to have AIDS. The following precautions do not specifically address outpatient care, dental care, surgery, necropsy, or hemodialysis of AIDS patients. In general, procedures appropriate for patients known to be infected with hepatitis B virus are advised, and blood and organs of AIDS patients should not be donated.

The precautions that follow are advised for persons and specimens from persons with: opportunistic infections that are not associated with underlying immunosuppressive disease or therapy; Kaposi's sarcoma (patients under 60 years of age); chronic generalized lymphadenopathy, unexplained weight loss and/or prolonged unexplained fever in persons who belong to groups with apparently increased risks of AIDS (homosexual males, intravenous drug abusers, Haitian entrants, hemophiliacs); and possible AIDS (hospitalized for evaluation). Hospitals and laboratories should adapt the following suggested precautions to their individual circumstances; these recommendations are not meant to restrict hospitals from implementing additional precautions.

  1. The following precautions are advised in providing care to AIDS patients:

    1. Extraordinary care must be taken to avoid accidental wounds from sharp instruments contaminated with potentially infectious material and to avoid contact of open skin lesions with material from AIDS patients.

    2. Gloves should be worn when handling blood specimens, blood-soiled items, body fluids, excretions, and secretions, as well as surfaces, materials, and objects exposed to them.

    3. Gowns should be worn when clothing may be soiled with body fluids, blood, secretions, or excretions.

    4. Hands should be washed after removing gowns and gloves and before leaving the rooms of known or suspected AIDS patients. Hands should also be washed thoroughly and immediately if they become contaminated with blood.

    5. Blood and other specimens should be labeled prominently with a special warning, such as "Blood Precautions" or "AIDS Precautions." If the outside of the specimen container is visibly contaminated with blood, it should be cleaned with a disinfectant (such as a 1:10 dilution of 5.25% sodium hypochlorite (household bleach) with water). All blood specimens should be placed in a second container, such as an impervious bag, for transport. The container or bag should be examined carefully for leaks or cracks.

    6. Blood spills should be cleaned up promptly with a disinfectant solution, such as sodium hypochlorite (see above).

    7. Articles soiled with blood should be placed in an impervious bag prominently labeled "AIDS Precautions" or "Blood Precautions" before being sent for reprocessing or disposal. Alternatively, such contaminated items may be placed in plastic bags of a particular color designated solely for disposal of infectious wastes by the hospital. Disposable items should be incinerated or disposed of in accord with the hospital's policies for disposal of infectious wastes. Reusable items should be reprocessed in accord with hospital policies for hepatitis B virus-contaminated items. Lensed instruments should be sterilized after use on AIDS patients.

    8. Needles should not be bent after use, but should be promptly placed in a puncture-resistant container used solely for such disposal. Needles should not be reinserted into their original sheaths before being discarded into the container, since this is a common cause of needle injury.

    9. Disposable syringes and needles are preferred. Only needle-locking syringes or one-piece needle-syringe units should be used to aspirate fluids from patients, so that collected fluid can be safely discharged through the needle, if desired. If reusable syringes are employed, they should be decontaminated before reprocessing.

    10. A private room is indicated for patients who are too ill to use good hygiene, such as those with profuse diarrhea, fecal incontinence, or altered behavior secondary to central nervous system infections. Precautions appropriate for particular infections that

concurrently occur in AIDS patients should be added to the above, if needed.

B. The following precautions are advised for persons performing laboratory tests or studies on clinical specimens or other potentially infectious materials (such as inoculated tissue cultures, embryonated eggs, animal tissues, etc.) from known or suspected AIDS cases:

  1. Mechanical pipetting devices should be used for the manipulation of all liquids in the laboratory. Mouth pipetting should not be allowed.

  2. Needles and syringes should be handled as stipulated in Section\A (above).

  3. Laboratory coats, gowns, or uniforms should be worn while working with potentially infectious materials and should be discarded appropriately before leaving the laboratory.

  4. Gloves should be worn to avoid skin contact with blood, specimens containing blood, blood-soiled items, body fluids, excretions, and secretions, as well as surfaces, materials, and objects exposed to them.

  5. All procedures and manipulations of potentially infectious material should be performed carefully to minimize the creation of droplets and aerosols.

  6. Biological safety cabinets (Class I or II) and other primary containment devices (e.g., centrifuge safety cups) are advised whenever procedures are conducted that have a high potential for creating aerosols or infectious droplets. These include centrifuging, blending, sonicating, vigorous mixing, and harvesting infected tissues from animals or embryonated eggs. Fluorescent activated cell sorters generate droplets that could potentially result in infectious aerosols. Translucent plastic shielding between the droplet-collecting area and the equipment operator should be used to reduce the presently uncertain magnitude of this risk. Primary containment devices are also used in handling materials that might contain concentrated infectious agents or organisms in greater quantities than expected in clinical specimens.

  7. Laboratory work surfaces should be decontaminated with a disinfectant, such as sodium hypochlorite solution (see A5 above), following any spill of potentially infectious material and at the completion of work activities.

  8. All potentially contaminated materials used in laboratory tests should be decontaminated, preferably by autoclaving, before disposal or reprocessing.

  9. All personnel should wash their hands following completion of laboratory activities, removal of protective clothing, and before leaving the laboratory. C. The following additional precautions are advised for studies involving experimental animals inoculated with tissues or other potentially infectious materials from individuals with known or suspected AIDS.

  10. Laboratory coats, gowns, or uniforms should be worn by personnel entering rooms housing inoculated animals. Certain nonhuman primates, such as chimpanzees, are prone to throw excreta and to spit at attendants; personnel attending inoculated animals should wear molded surgical masks and goggles or other equipment sufficient to prevent potentially infective droplets from reaching the mucosal surfaces of their mouths, nares, and eyes. In addition, when handled, other animals may disturb excreta in their bedding. Therefore, the above precautions should be taken when handling them.

  11. Personnel should wear gloves for all activities involving direct contact with experimental animals and their bedding and cages. Such manipulations should be performed carefully to minimize the creation of aerosols and droplets.

  12. Necropsy of experimental animals should be conducted by personnel wearing gowns and gloves. If procedures generating aerosols are performed, masks and goggles should be worn.

  13. Extraordinary care must be taken to avoid accidental sticks or cuts with sharp instruments contaminated with body fluids or tissues of experimental animals inoculated with material from AIDS patients.

  14. Animal cages should be decontaminated, preferably by autoclaving, before they are cleaned and washed.

  15. Only needle-locking syringes or one-piece needle-syringe units should be used to inject potentially infectious fluids into experimental animals. The above precautions are intended to apply to both clinical and

research laboratories. Biological safety cabinets and other safety equipment may not be generally available in clinical laboratories. Assistance should be sought from a microbiology laboratory, as needed, to assure containment facilities are adequate to permit laboratory tests to be conducted safely. Reported by Hospital Infections Program, Div of Viral Diseases, Div of Host Factors, Div of Hepatitis and Viral Enteritis, AIDS Activity, Center for Infectious Diseases, Office of Biosafety, CDC; Div of Safety, National Institutes of Health.

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