As I boarded the TriMet Blue Line MAX, I saw blood all over a seat, floor, wall and even handles as you enter the train. The seat was blocked with tape, but the hand rails right next to the doors could have been easily grabbed by anyone not being very careful. Why wasn't the train disinfected right away, or at the very least taken out of service?
Photos accompanying the question show a disturbing scene. For readers who understandably don't care to click through the gallery, suffice to say there's blood smeared on several surfaces. That and the yellow caution tape, evocative of a crime scene, probably led some passengers to imagine the worst.
It's not just icky, as the reader who sent the photos points out. It also presents a potential danger to the riding public.
"I work in a medical laboratory and have been trained and have extensive experience in handling biohazardous material," wrote Asa Shreve. "I recognize that the general public isn't as informed, but they shouldn't be any less safe because of that."
Blood contains more pathogens than other bodily fluids. Of particular concern are exposure to hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV.
The blood came from 60-year-old woman who was taken off the train and to a hospital after suffering an injury to her arm. It's not clear how the injury occurred or whether it happened onboard the train, but there's no indication of criminal involvement, TriMet spokeswoman Roberta Altstadt said. Police did not make a report.
TriMet workers at Sunset Transit Center put down towels to absorb the blood and taped off part of the car. Then it carried on to Cleveland Avenue MAX station, more than 30 stops away, before the train was taken out of service to be cleaned.
Generally, TriMet's policy on biohazards -- blood and other potentially infectious bodily materials -- is to leave it for trained professionals to clean up. Train operators are expected to use a spill kit to contain the scene, but otherwise leave it alone.
"To keep the system moving, it is procedure to tape off biohazards until we can get the train to a location where it can be cleaned," Altstadt said.
If the train stays in service, the operator is supposed to make announcements at each stop informing passengers of the hazard and which areas are off-limits.
TriMet officials at first said the scene was clearly marked, and they were confident that riders would be kept safely away.
But then they brought the photos to the attention of Patrick Preusser, the agency's recently hired executive director of transportation, who disagreed.
"We try to preserve as much access as possible while still blocking off the biohazard area," Altstadt said. But in this case, she said, "we should have closed off the vehicle and only allowed riders on the second vehicle of the train."
Have a commuting question? Contact Elliot Njus at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @enjus
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