Blood donation when unknowingly exposed to Hep B
September 22, 2012 12:23 AM   Subscribe

I just found out a close family member has had Hepatitis B for years. I last met them a month ago; my vaccinations are up to date. Does this mean I can't donate blood for another nine months of not-seeing this family member?

To complicate things, I have been a blood donor for two years. I never knew about the Hep B, and I suppose I should've asked. Does this mean I may have unknowingly infected someone or something? I'm a bit flustered, not least because I was looking forward to donating again this weekend till I found out. Thank you.
posted by undue influence to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The eligibility guidelines for blood donation state "If you live with or have had sexual contact with a person who has hepatitis, you must wait 12 months after the last contact." It sounds like neither of these are an issue. You probably have proximity contact with people with Heptatitis regularly -- it's not a super easily transmitted disease -- Wikipedia describes is as "Transmission of hepatitis B virus results from exposure to infectious blood or body fluids containing blood. Possible forms of transmission include sexual contact,[43] blood transfusions and transfusion with other human blood products,[44] re-use of contaminated needles and syringes,[45] and vertical transmission from mother to child (MTCT) during childbirth." -- it sounds like you just like.. hung out with this person a bit. You are totally and completely fine.
posted by brainmouse at 12:29 AM on September 22, 2012 [3 favorites]

Hep B is something you may or not be vaccinated against, which you can check on, but it's transmitted by sexual contact or IV drug use (or other blood/body fluid contact.). So unless your definition of close family member is significantly different than the norm, no, you're fine. Normal kissing, sweat, tears, unless bloody (eg dental work saliva is not 'normal' since it's often bloody) is not considered a source of transmission.
posted by cobaltnine at 12:38 AM on September 22, 2012 [4 favorites]

or sharing razors, I've heard. Casual contact is not sufficient.
posted by jb at 5:59 AM on September 22, 2012

I used to get Blood Borne Pathogens training once a year because it was conceivable that I might interact with human derived materials. They really drilled the fact that the issue with Hep B and Hep C was how long they'd remain infectious relative to HIV. Assuming you didn't share a razor or a toothbrush (I'm not sure that there are any known transmission events from these two sources, but I've heard them cited) and no blood was otherwise shed, you should be fine.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 6:27 AM on September 22, 2012

If you get vaccinated, make sure to tell them at the donation center. Thanks for being a blood donor; it is genuinely a life-saving gift.
posted by theora55 at 6:53 AM on September 22, 2012

Call the blood bank and ask to speak with a supervisor, that's the best way to find out definitively. All blood banks have to operate under FDA guidelines but each has their own stricter set of rules in place so there is a little bit of variation. Get the answer directly from the horse's mouth.
posted by radioamy at 11:04 AM on September 22, 2012

You can also feel OK about the blood that you donated in the past - blood is tested for Hepatitis B. So really, between the odds of you not getting it and the odds of it not being caught in the donor blood testing, your donations were safe.

If there's still any question in your mind, feel free to say something to the person interviewing you for donation when you go in to donate next. They're trained to know when it is or isn't okay, and will appreciate your honesty.

And I would also like to say thank you for donating blood. I work in a blood bank and have seen donated blood be the reason someone is alive today. So, thanks!
posted by sherber at 6:47 PM on September 22, 2012

Undue Influence, I wanna thank you as someone who is alive today because of donated blood! And good on you for working to ensure your blood is still safe to give.
posted by Kibby at 8:00 PM on September 22, 2012

Response by poster: So I just got back from my appointment less 450ml of blood. :D I checked, and they said it should be okay, and went on to explain the tests and all that they do on the blood. Also, I've learned that 'close proximity' does not mean what I thought it did. Thank you for all your answers.

Thank you also for the kind words! Knowing of course that many other people donate, yippee to them too! I also always vaguely thought that 'you're saving lives!' was some kind of platitude, but this thread kind of changed my mind. Thank you all.
posted by undue influence at 6:12 AM on September 23, 2012

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