People who spit at or bite police officers will have to provide DNA samples for infectious disease testing under a new law passed by State Parliament this afternoon.
In a media release, Acting Police Minister John Day said mandatory testing would cut the waiting period for exposed police officers to find out if they had been infected or not.
“I think [the law] is necessary to relieve a lot of heartache for police officers and their families,” Mrs Roberts said.
“At the moment police officers have to keep being tested for up to six months to know if they have contracted the disease.
“This effects their way of life and the way they interact with their family.”
UWA School of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine professor David Smith said the new law was a strong step forward for police protection, despite the rarity of infection.
“There are a number of situations where someone may [be] exposed to somebody else’s potentially infectious bodily substances,” Professor Smith said.
“Actual transmissions from these sorts of incidental exposures are extremely rare.
“If it’s assessed there is a risk of transmission and we don’t know what the person’s status is, you follow people up to reassure them.”
Professor Smith said there was a need to test exposed officers for lengthy periods to completely rule out infection.
“It’s just a matter of being extra cautious,” he said.
“[Most times] if there has been a transmission [of infection] the tests will come up earlier than that, usually within a month.
“Some can take a little longer.
“We always go far enough to say we are definitely happy that nothing has been transmitted by the exposure.”
Under the legislation, DNA collected for infectious disease testing will not be able to be used for further criminal investigation.
Mr Day said testing would only take place if there was a possibility of an officer contracting an infectious disease from a biter or spitter.
Approval for the blood test must come from an inspector or higher rank, and a court order will be needed if the alleged offender is a child.
WorkSafe principal scientific officer Sally North said police should focus on preventing the risk of infection as well as managing exposure.
“This particular Bill is looking to manage the stress angle of potential infectious disease,” Ms North said ahead of the Act’s passing.
“We’d like people to be managing the risks as best they can to prevent the risk of infectious diseases being transferred.
“Infectious diseases are quite prevalent in some groups of the community so it’s definitely something that needs to be managed.”
The blood test will check for HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis B.
Homepage photo: ‘GrahamColm’, Wikimedia Commons