Gross virus vector: Should I be concerned or just disgusted?
August 2, 2014 6:14 AM   Subscribe

I am going into more detail than might be necessary to head off questions... Last night I stayed in a nice upper-quality chain hotel that no business person or middle class leisure traveler would ever think twice about booking (think luxury lobby, lots of services, in a downtown urban area, not a highway discount chain.) I dropped into bed exhausted and didn't check the sheets first. When I woke up, I discovered large amounts of dried but still fairly recent looking blood in the sheets. (Definitely not old stained/washed, rather flaking, newish rust color, etc.)

It was smeared midway down the fitted sheet, AND under the fold of the top sheet that had been folded over the quilt. When I took the whole cover off to check further, I also found a clearance price sticker from an article of clothing that was not mine. So to head off questions: These sheets really had not been changed for my arrival. And: I checked my whole body and I definitely did not bleed. I definitely did not menstruate even a little and I did not have a nose bleed -- with that amount of blood, there would have been some on my face or pillow. Plus the amount of blood *under* the flap of the folded top of the sheet, and the strange clothing tag in the sheets, made it clear these sheets were just mistakenly dirty sheets that were just re-made on the bed.

The manager came up to see for himself, when I called in the morning to complain, and said "I"m just as horrified as you" and comped the room. I do not want anything else from the hotel.

But now I'm kind of freaking out about diseases. I *do* have subtle breaks in skin (not enough to bleed, but bitten cuticles, etc) and do not like the idea of having slept in hotel stranger blood. How worried should I be, **medically** , and what diseases should I be worried about?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (9 answers total)
I came into this thread planning to be reassuring, but the CDC says certain viruses can live in dried blood up to seven days. They list Hep B and Hep C as possibilities. However, transfer is more difficult with a dried substance as opposed to a liquid. I would clean everything that came in contact with it (including yourself) thoroughly, using a dry method followed by a wet method.
posted by Gneisskate at 6:27 AM on August 2, 2014

I realized the last part of that might not be detailed enough. First, take all the clothes that were in contact with it and package them separately for cleaning. Then (after undressing) take gloves (because of the cuticles) and a dry cloth and brush off any particles you can find. Shower after that.
posted by Gneisskate at 6:39 AM on August 2, 2014

The odds are stacked against transfer from dried blood. However, if I were still there I would take a picture to go with my comped-room receipt, in the unlikely unlikely unlikely event I *did* get hepatitis or something from this gross encounter.
posted by deludingmyself at 8:04 AM on August 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

(And suddenly found my opinion on what I was satisfied with as a hotel response changing. Mostly I would do this in an almost superstitious way, to feel like I'm not asking the universe for something that awful to happen.)
posted by deludingmyself at 8:07 AM on August 2, 2014

Hm. I'd also get myself a full STI screen 6 weeks to 3 months after exposure. If I were still in the room, I *might* pack up a sample of the blood and see if I could get someone to test it for me to ease my anxiety in the mean time, but I've worked in a lab setting and would probably have an easier time finagling that than most people. I *might* try to get he hotel to do it/pay for it, though. Hm.

That said, your question is clearly raising my own anxiety about disease transmission, perhaps more than warranted. The odds of you having hep or HIV from this encounter are very low with dried blood.
posted by deludingmyself at 8:14 AM on August 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

One final comment, to try to quantify and specify your worry. You should be most worried about Hep B, Hep C, and HIV, in that order of likelihood. The transmission rates for exposed healthcare workers are 6-30% for HepB, 1.8% for HepC, and 0.3% for HIV. Your odds are lower - how much lower, we can't say - since most of those data involve needle sticks, and usually fresher blood.

Additionally, you may have been vaccinated against Hepatitis B, in which case you can stop worrying about that one.
posted by deludingmyself at 8:27 AM on August 2, 2014

I would be as grossed out as you are, and I would be a little concerned, because I'm that kind of person. But unless it's something like ebola, your chances of catching a serious disease from being next to dried blood with no open wounds of your own are almost nil. (Unless you were actively bleeding from your cuticles in the night, you should be fine.)

I would get tested, definitely, because on the infinitesimally small chance that I did pick something up, I would want to sue the crap out of the hotel chain. Because I am that kind of person, too. But it wouldn't be out of serious concern for my health. It would just be due diligence.
posted by kythuen at 9:05 AM on August 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

You can only get infected if blood gets in touch with blood - so open wounds, not bitten cuticles.

Questions about dried blood have indeed been asked many times. It's nearly becoming a QTND (question that never dies). It certainly has an ATNC (answer that never changes): No risk! [many questions with always the same answer by doctors here]
posted by TheGoodBlood at 10:15 AM on August 2, 2014 [4 favorites]

6-30% for HepB, 1.8% for HepC, and 0.3% for HIV. Your odds are lower - how much lower, we can't say - since most of those data involve needle sticks, and usually fresher blood.

We can't precisely quantify the risk, but one thing I do feel comfortable saying is that it's extremely, extremely low. This story is completely horrible and I too would be disgusted, but you don't need to be medically worried.

Consider this:
"A meta-analysis of 10 studies exploring the risk of transmission through vaginal sex was published in 2009.4 It estimated the risk of HIV transmission through receptive vaginal sex (receiving the penis in the vagina) to be 0.08% (equivalent to 1 transmission per 1,250 exposures).
A meta-analysis of three studies exploring the risk from insertive vaginal sex (inserting the penis into the vagina) was estimated to be 0.04% (equivalent to 1 transmission per 2,500 exposures).3"

It really takes more than just touching infected body fluids to contract bloodborne diseases, in most cases. Consider these further reassuring facts:
- Most people do not have bloodborne diseases - the above numbers apply only to your odds of contracting a disease if you're exposed to someone who does have it, not any random person who might or might not be infected, those odds would be much, much lower.
- Many or most people who have bloodborne diseases take medications that reduce the contagiousness of their blood. People who have HIV who regularly take antiretroviral drugs and have an undetectable viral load are much lower risk than people with acute AIDS. People who have hepatitis C can also take medications to essentially make the disease go into remission.

A final point - here's an HIV Needlestick Risk Assessment Stratification Protocol. I put in your information as: Unknown HIV status, low risk situation, dried old blood, intact skin, trace volume of inoculum (because really, touching dried blood on an object is not akin to having a needlestick even with a small-bore hollow needle). The RASP puts your risk at "less than 0.001" or 1 in 100000000. Feel free to check it out.

Summary: you don't need to be medically worried.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 1:52 PM on August 2, 2014 [15 favorites]

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