Casual Contact Said To Pose No AIDS Risk

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Infants and young children who are infected with the virus that causes aids pose virtually no risk to their family members, school and day-care workers, and other children with whom they live or play, a new study has concluded.

The study is the most extensive to date to examine whether the human immunodeficiency virus, or hiv, has been transmitted to anyone who has had regular, nonsexual contact with infected young children.

Health officials, including those at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, believe that younger children--who often drool, bite, and mouth toys, and who are incontinent--may be more likely to transmit the virus than older children. The virus can be transmitted through exposure to saliva, blood, and other body fluids.

But the study, conducted by a team of researchers from nine different institutions, including the cdc, found no evidence that 89 family members and foster-home residents caring for or living with 25 infected children had been exposed to the virus.

Most of the children included in the study were under the age of 5, and the household members had been exposed to the infected child for a median of 15.5 months.

Household members were tested for exposure to hiv at least four months after their initial contact with the infected child, and all tested negative.

All had had close physical contact with the child, including sleeping, bathing, hugging, and kissing. They also shared such common items as toothbrushes, eating utensils, combs, and nail clippers that likely would have been soiled with blood and other body fluids.

In nine households, the infected child had bitten another child, and in seven, a child had bitten the infected youngster. All the bites were minor and did not break the skin.

'Theoretical' Risk

According to the study, there is little evidence to date that infected children have spread the virus. None of the more than 100,000 people with aids nationwide have reported getting it through household contact, the researchers said. And 11 other studies have found no evidence that the disease can be spread by household contact.

There is only one well-documented case in which an infant transmitted the virus to his mother, they said. In that case, the mother was extensively exposed to the child's body fluids and blood while providing in-hospital nursing care, and took no precautions to protect herself.

The study's findings could result in changes in a 1985 statement by the cdc on whether children with aids should be placed in schools and day-care centers.

In that statement the cdc said that most infected children would pose little risk to others if they attended school or day care. But for children who cannot control their body secretions, have uncovered, bleeding lesions, or who bite, greater caution must be taken and "a more restrictive environment is advisable until more is known about transmission in these [education and care] settings."

The new study, however, concluded that "this caution is based more on theoretical grounds than actual evidence of transmission in these settings."

New aids Cases

In a related development, the cdc has reported that there were 35,238 new aids cases last year, an increase of 9 percent.

Statistics show that homosexual and bisexual men still accounted for the majority of new aids cases, but that newborns, heterosexuals, women, and drug users had the highest percentage increases.

Last year, there were 525 new cases of aids in children under age 5, up from 465 cases the previous year. There were also 142 new cases in young people between the ages of 5 and 19, down from the 254 new cases reported the year before.

Vol. 09, Issue 22

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