An encounter with an unruly patient in an emergency room resulted in three Kyle police officers having to undergo “exposure control” protocol.
Chief Jeff Barnett did not identify the three officers, who were exposed on Dec. 2 to the blood of the 27-year-old patient, described as a homeless individual who had been staying in San Marcos.
Additionally, he said, one of the officers was punched in the face by the suspect, identified as Gerod Paul Huggins. The officers, at the hospital’s request, were trying to remove Huggins – who was said to be under the influence of some substance – from the area.
Barnet said there are many circumstances under which officers can become exposed to the bodily fluids of another, including blood coming from an IV, though he added he did not know that to be the case in this incident.
Exposure control plans, as outlined by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), must be specific, must be reviewed and updated at least yearly, must outline positions or technology used to reduce exposures to blood or body fluids and must be readily available to all workers.
“It happens from time to time,” Barnett said of accidental exposure. “It’s not that uncommon that we would go through that exposure.”
When exposure occurs, he said, the affected employee must notify a supervisor and undergo an evaluation. “If there’s a concern that person has some highly contagious disease like HIV or hepatitis, those employees who are exposed have some rights to gain information from the person who exposed them about (that person’s) medical history.”
He said once the protocol is initiated, the incident is under the authority of the county health department, not law enforcement.
If the employee has in fact been exposed to a communicable disease, they are then put through “proper treatment for blood-borne pathogens.”