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Worried about Herpes after swabbing someone with whitlow

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Hi I'm a bit worried about herpes, I'm in the security industrie and had to swab someone for an explosive test with a long stick with the swab attached, what I noticed when I got to the persons feet is that they were wearing open shoes and on one of their feet on two of their smaller toes had what looked like herpes similar to herpes whitlow but on the feet. This person had thongs on and I only touch the rubber strap inbetween the toes carefully with the swab but not the actual toes but when I was swabbing and leaning down I felt a little bit of dust or something fly in my eye and I'm paranoid it could be from this person feet. Do u think that I would be ok in this situation?

Category: Infectious Disease Specialist

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Category: HIV- AIDS Specialist
 22 Doctors Online


Thank you for asking your query at DoctorSpring.

From your description I understand there was no direct skin to skin contact with lesion. (at max an aerosol contact) In that case you are safe and there is no reason to worry. Even if you had a direct contact you will have only 10% or less chance to manifest the disease. So you need not worry about this.

Hope this helps
Please feel free to ask followup questions.
Thank you

Patient replied :

Ok what is aerosol contact? And what do you mean by direct contact, me touching the lesion or me touching the lesion with the swab?

Direct contact means you touching the lesion with your hand. (touching it with a swab is no contact at all). Aerosol spread means particle spread via air (the dust you had in your eyes). Herpes usually do not spread like this.

Hope this clarifies. Feel free to ask followups
Thank you

Patient replied :

Ok so what are the chances or percentage of infection from air contact and would you basically need to scrape the lesion with the swab and make a sufficient amount airborne? And also would one little partical airborne be able to cause infection or would u need more? Please read and answer all questions. Thank you for your help

"Ok so what are the chances or percentage of infection from air contact"

This is very difficult to say as there is no data/evidence based study on this. To put a number the chances would be less than 1%. To put things in perspective in a case of HSV postive and HSV negative partner living together, it might take upto 3 months for the negative partner to turn positive. That too more than 70% never manifest the disease.

The actual transmission depends on the viral shedding, infectivity, your immune status (more than 50% adults have HSV in their system anyway).

"and would you basically need to scrape the lesion with the swab and make a sufficient amount airborne? "

There is no 'sufficient' airbone level , but more particulates are there , the more risk. Just swabbing usually will not make significant airborne particles. I mentioned aerosols since you felt 'something in the eye'. Again the risk via this transmission is low.

"And also would one little partical airborne be able to cause infection or would u need more?"

Yes if you are really really unlucky even one particle can cause infection. But in your case I would say it is very unlikely as you had no direct contact.

Hope I answered all your concerns. Thank you
Feel free to ask followup.

Patient replied :

Ok thanks for your help so far your helping a lot. With the situation I was in I would say it was probably just some dust or something in the air anyway and nothing to do with the herpes, because the dust in the air happens all the time, this time it happened to happen when I was swabbing so I'm paranoid because I saw the lesion. What will definitely put my mind at rest is if I explain to you the appearance of the lesion and then maybe you will have a better idea how infectious it would be at the stage described. The lesion wasn't red or blistering and didnt have any open wounds or puss, it just looked like two of the smaller toes wer deformed and all lumpy and wrinkled up but normal skin colour. What stage of herpes would this be and how contagious? Let me know. Thankyou a lot again

As per your description, the location is NOT typical for Herpes and the lesion also is NOT typical of HSV. Thank you.

Dr. Jaydeep Tripathy
Category: HIV- AIDS Specialist
MBBS from Sri Ramachandra University in December 2011
M.Med (Family Medicine) - TNMGR University, Chennai
MBA-MPH in Public Health in March 2016, SRM University
Finished AFIH in March 2016, SRM University
MRCP ( UK ), Internal Medicine, Royal College of Physicians, June 2016
Fellowship in Diabetology from Martin Luther University in January 2017

Currently Resident Physician, in MD Radiodiagnosis - Kamakshi Memorial Hospital, Chennai
Dr. Jaydeep Tripathy and 4 other Medical Specialists are ready to help you

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