New AIDS phase feared as disease strikes health workers

The Australian, 19 July 1983:

CONCERN in the United States about acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) has been increased by reports that the disease has stricken four health care workers.

Until now, medical experts in New York, the centre of the epidemic, have believed that AIDS can be transmitted only by intensive sexual contact or by contaminated blood. […]

None of the four health workers now affected had contact with AIDS patients in their jobs, and none is a drug abuser or homosexual, but the CDC said that the possibility that these patients “had forgotten or had unknown exposure to the blood of AIDS patients cannot be entirely excluded”.

The CDC. which has isolated AIDS in patients from 38 of the 50 American States, and the District of Columbia emphasised that it was not revising its estimates of the risk of contracting the syndrome. There have been no confirmed reports of transmission in hospitals from patient to patient or from patients to medical personnel.

But in New York and the other major AIDS centre, San Francisco, health care workers have become alarmed about the possibility of exposure to the disease. Undertakers are refusing to handle the bodies of some victims, while conservative columnists have worked themselves into a frenzy over the potential threat posed by the gay lile-style since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic. […]

The executive director of the AIDS project in Los Angeles, a counselling organisation, Mr Erwin Munroe. said he was preparing for “public panic” but emphasised there was no evidence AIDS could be spread through casual contact.

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