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There will be blood

Q: “How concerned should I be about ‘catching something’ from an attacker?”

A: “Very.  Just know that it’s better to live with a disease than to die in a fight.”

The focus of today’s article is not on sexually transmitted diseases.  However, it should be noted that if you are the victim of a sexual assault or rape, medical screenings for STDs should be high on the priority list of things to do following such an attack.

If you find yourself in a fight for your life – be it a fist fight, knife fight, or a gun fight – it’s not just possible that you end up with the attacker’s DNA on you, it’s highly likely.  Most violent encounters, even with guns, occur at “bad breath distance.”  When a bad guy wants to take something from you – your money, your car, your watch, or something far more personal – they must get close to you, which increases the potential for disease transmission.  

Bad guys tend to live high-risk lifestyles.  Drug abuse, sexual promiscuity, unsanitary living conditions, and flagrant disregard for personal health and hygiene are commonplace among criminals.  Criminals also spend a lot of time in jail – a close quarters living arrangement with others who live similar lifestyles, and a breeding ground for yuck.  These life choices produce a higher-than-normal risk of contracting disease, whether it be the flu or something Ajax won’t take off. 

  Cross contamination with bloodborne pathogens is the biggest concern when discussing communicable disease in a self-defense scenario.  Other things are certainly possible, but hepatitis, HIV, “FBA” (Full Blown Aids), as I’ve heard it referred to in the scientific medical community, and tuberculosis, rank among the top of the list concerning disease contraction.  What some people might not realize is the importance of medical screenings following a self-defense scenario.  Frankly, with all the hoopla going on at the scene and in the hours immediately following a violent encounter, medical tests will likely be the furthest thing from your mind, but those screenings should be a part of your plan of action, later down the road.

Screening for some diseases is not as easy as going to the hospital, donating a vial of blood, and getting a lab report back within an hour.  These things don’t just appear in your system over night.  Testing for certain diseases involves multiple tests over a period of months, maybe even a year or more, to determine the presence of a virus, or the lack thereof.  

Even if the attacker doesn’t noticeably bleed on you, which is a big IF, it’s possible that they still transmit disease.  Human saliva and mucus are not, by themselves, bloodborne pathogen carriers.  However, if there’s blood mixed into saliva or mucus by way of an injury, an ulcer or other reason, those fluids become a vehicle in which blood droplets can hitch a ride.  Spit and sputum are disgusting.  When you add the possibility of blood hanging out with them, they can be just as dangerous as an open wound.  Imagine you pepper spray an attacker.  Now he has long strings of relatively harmless snot hanging from his nostrils to his belt buckle.  Now imagine you punch him in the nose.  That relatively harmless snot just became a biohazard whip.

If you thought that was nasty, just wait.  These are things people don’t like to think about because bodily fluids are gross, but the reality is that they exist, and you will physically encounter them in a fight.  If you punch, stab, bludgeon, or shoot someone, they will bleed.  Depending on how and where you inflict the trauma, in addition to blood, you might also find yourself in direct contact with bone fragments and / or brain matter.  What’s far worse than getting those things on you isgetting them in you.  

Blood, bone fragments, and brain matter on your skin can usually be cleaned off with no negative physiological effects or disease transmission occurring.  However, getting those things into your eyes, mouth, or into an open wound can be medically devastating.

I say all this not to be gruesome or to prevent you from defending innocent life, but to emphasize the importance of medical screenings being a part of your self-defense plan.  Does hepatitis suck?  Yep.  It sure does.  Would I rather live with hepatitis than die in a fight because I was afraid of what disease I might catch from the bad guy?  Most definitely.  

Nobody wants a disease, but death is even less desirable.  We, and anyone dependent on us for protection, only get one life and it’s our responsibility to protect that gift.  We can’t depend on anyone else to come to our rescue during a violent encounter, and the responsibility of our wellbeing after the fact falls solely on us as well.  That’s why knowing what to expect and having a plan of action before you need one is so crucial.  We can’t always avoid bad things, but medical considerations are just another reason to always… you guessed it – Avoid what you can.  Defeat what you can’t.

Thanks for reading.


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Ryan Barnette is not a licensed attorney or a medical provider, and no information provided in “Slicing the Pie,” or any other publication authored by Ryan Barnette should be construed, in any way, as official legal, or medical advice.