To a point you have to consider this, but you can also worry
yourself to death about it. For instance, the virus that causes cold
sores can remain viable out of the mouth for up to 5 hours. So a
customer with a cold sore may hand you practically anything, or touch
something in your store after touching their mouth and infect all
manner of items. You can't practically consider all aspects of
infection control, particularly when you're not in the business to.
To get right to what matters though, the only way to kill or
denature an infectious organism with any suriety is by autoclaving
it. That's a steam/pressure sterilizing system. I imagine there are
some fragile items like opals and the like that wouldn't weather that
treatment very well. Therefore, without the proper means to sterilize
an item that is potentially infectious, where are you left? The
following rules help...
Hand the item with care. If there is obvious blood or other bodily
fluid on the item (saliva from a tongue ring, etc.), use gloves.
Clean the item well. Keep in mind the nature of your item in
selecting your cleanser, and follow it's directions. For surface
disinfecting, nearly all cleansers say to leave the item for at least
10 minutes after application.
Never, EVER assume anything about the customer's health status.
What you don't know could kill you. "Considering the customer"
should not be done. Period.
One last thing...if you are injured/stuck/cut while working on a
piece that has not been properly cleaned, or had visible blood/bodily
fluids on it to begin with, seek medical attention. A medical doctor
will be adept at handling the situation and through them would be a
better way to contact your customer should blood testing be required.
MDs also report these incidents (anonymously) to certain government
agencies so they can see where better to protect the working public
from such risks (mainly OSHA).
David A. Cowling, DDS