Blood Borne Pathogens

Blood borne pathogens are microorganisms that are present in human blood and can infect and cause disease in people who are exposed to blood containing the pathogen. These microorganisms can be transmitted through contact with contaminated blood and body fluids.
Blood borne pathogens include, but are not limited to:

  • • Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
    • Hepatitis B (HBV)
    • Hepatitis C (HCV)
    • Non A, Non B Hepatitis
    • Syphilis
    • Malaria
    • • Brucellosis
    • Leptospirosis


  • • Understand the bloodborne pathogens
    • Identify the types of diseases and infections that can be transmitted through the bloodborne pathogens
    • Recognize the symptoms of bloodborne diseases
    • Understand how pathogens may be transmitted.
    • Understand the prevention measures and what to do if exposed to bloodborne pathogens

What Is A BloodBorne Pathogen?

Infectious microorganisms in the blood can cause diseases, including hepatitis B and C or HIV. The pathogens can spread a disease from an infected person to another person through blood or infected body fluids. The pathogens can also enter through eyes, nose, or mouth as these are lined by mucous membranes.

Risk Factors

If you work in the field of health care or public safety, you are at risk due to exposure to disease pathogens. Nurses, doctors, paramedics, policemen, dentists, housekeeping workers, and laboratory workers are among the professionals at risk. Even non-health care workers could get infected.

Exposure Control Plan

Under the OSHA standard, every employer with employees at occupational risk exposure to bloodborne pathogens “shall establish a written control plan of designed to minimize or eliminate employee exposure.”

HIV Facts

HIV is a virus that attacks the immune system and destroys T cells. Having AIDS means the virus has weakened the immune system and the body has difficulty fighting infection.
HIV  is not transmitted through daily activities such as shaking hands or from toilet seats, drinking fountains or mosquitoes bites. Many people with HIV do not have symptoms for ten years or more.

HBV Facts

HBV is a serious disease affecting the liver that can cause:
Acute illness: Symptoms include fatigue, loss of appetite, diarrhea, vomiting, jaundice (yellow skin or eyes), and pain in muscles, joints and stomach.

Chronic illness: This can be very serious leading to liver damage (cirrhosis), liver cancer and death. HBV can survive at least 7 days outside the body and continue to cause infection.

BloodBorne Pathogen Transmission

Body fluids that should be considered infectious:

  • Blood
    Vaginal secretions
    Breast milk
    Body fluids containing visible blood

BBPs are most commonly transmitted through:

  • Sexual contact
    Needle sharing
    Blood transfusions
    Areas of broken skin (open sores, cuts, abrasions, acne or damaged skin such as blisters)
    Mucous membranes (eyes, nose and mouth)
    Mother to baby at birth

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)

HIV attacks the body’s immune system and may cause
Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).

• Currently, there is no vaccine or cure for HIV.
• Needle sticks are a rare cause of occupational HIV transmission (.04% of people are infected in the workplace).
• It is still important to be careful when working with needles because HIV can lead to AIDS which is fatal.

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Continued

A person with HIV may:
• Carry the virus without developing symptoms for many years.
• Develop AIDS, or AIDS-related symptoms including:
neurological problems, cancer, and other opportunistic infections.
• Suffer from flu-like symptoms, fever, diarrhea, and fatigue as well as weakness, sore-throat, white coating on the tongue, weight loss, and swollen lymph glands.

Hepatitis B (HBV)

Hepatitis means “inflammation of the liver.”

HBV is a major bloodborne hazard that infects approximately 8,700 healthcare workers a year, resulting in more than 200 deaths.

  • There is a vaccine available to prevent HBV.
    Blood to blood transmission is the most common form of HBV infection.
  • May not develop symptoms for up to 9 months.
    May suffer from symptoms such as fatigue, stomach pain, jaundice, and darkened urine.
    HBV may severely damage the liver, causing cirrhosis and sometimes death.

Hepatitis C (HCV)

HCV is the most common bloodborne infection in the US,
infecting more than 4 million Americans, most of which are unaware that they are infected.
There is no vaccine against HCV.

Symptoms include: Jaundice, fatigue, darkened urine, abdominal pain, and loss of appetite or nausea,
although many people remain asymptomatic.

Models of Transmission

• Semen
• Vaginal secretions
• Saliva
• Amniotic fluid
• Peritoneal fluid
• Pleural fluid
• Synovial fluid
• Any fluid that is contaminated with blood

Vehicles of Transmission

Bloodborne pathogens may enter the body and infect a person through a variety of means including:

• Hypodermic Needles
• Sexual Contact
• Contaminated needles, or any other sharp object that can pierce skin.
• Contact between broken or damaged skin and infected bodily fluids.
• Indirect transmission such as touching a contaminated object to your mouth, eyes, nose, or other mucous membranes.

Universal Precautions

Universal precaution requires you,
to treat all human blood and bodily fluids as if they were known to be infected.

Reducing the Risk

There are five major tactics to help reduce your risk of exposure and infection:
1. Work Practices & Personal Hygiene
2. Personal Protective Equipment (gowns and gloves)
3. Engineering Controls (hoods)
4. Good Housekeeping (hand washing)
5. Hepatitis B Vaccine
6. Receipt of an annual influenza vaccination

Work Practices

If you come in contact with infectious materials, wash the exposed area immediately in order to lessen the chance of becoming infected.

In laboratory and patient care areas you should wash your hands frequently when you:

• Remove your gloves
• Come in contact with blood or other bodily fluids
• Change workstations
• Enter a “clean” area

To Avoid Needle Sticks

• Use a needle with Engineered Sharps
• Injury Protection (SESIP) attached to the blood tube holder and dispose of the entire unit into a sharps container.
• Do not bend, break, and NEVER re-cap needles.
• Do not remove contaminated needles from blood tube following a blood draw.
• Place contaminated sharps in an appropriate puncture-resistant container.

Personal Hygiene

• Always minimize splashing, spraying, and spattering.
• Don’t store food or drinks where blood and other infectious materials may be present.
• Avoid petroleum-based lubricants because they can eat away at latex gloves.

Personal Protective Equipment

  • • Masks/Eye Protection
  • • Gowns/Coats
  • • Gloves

Personal Protective Equipment Continued

• PPE should be worn at all times in the laboratory except in approved “clean areas”.
• PPE should never be worn outside of the area of potential exposure.
• Contaminated PPE must be taken care of appropriately by either disposing, decontaminating, or laundering it.


  • • Gloves are a very important way of protecting yourself.
    • Always use latex or approved non-latex gloves.
    • Always check the gloves for holes before putting them on.
  • • Wash your hands thoroughly.

Engineering Controls

Engineering Controls are the primary means of minimizing or eliminating employee exposure to BBP and include the use of safer medical devices. Some examples are:

• Self-sheathing needles
• Sharps disposal containers
• Biohazard waste bags
• Biological Safety Hoods
• Autoclaves

Good Housekeeping

Good Housekeeping means using your common sense and knowledge to keep your work areas clean and to protect yourself and your colleagues. General rules are:

• Clean and decontaminate all equipment and surfaces at the end of each shift using an appropriate decontaminant.
• Replace protective coverings on equipment
• Place contaminated sharps into the proper leak-proof containers.
• Please read and follow all biohazard labels
• Always dispose of hazardous materials (including sharps) in the proper RED (NOT orange) container or bag.

Exposure Incident Procedures

  • An exposure incident is a spill, splash, needle stick, ingestion,
    or accident, in which you have direct and unprotected contact with human blood, fluids, or tissue.

In the event of an exposure incident you should:
Wash or flush the area immediately.
Seek further medical treatment as necessary.
Ensure the incident is reported to your doctor.

Specific Exposure Procedures

•Contaminated skin: scrub and soak the area for at least 10 minutes using a providone iodine solution (e.g. Betadine) and water.
• Percutaneous injury (needle stick, cut, wound, etc.):
Vigorously scrub and soak the area for at least 20 minutes with a Betadine solution and water before seeking additional treatment.

• Mucous Membrane: Flush any exposed area for at least 15 minutes at an emergency eyewash station before seeking additional treatment.

Report an exposure incident as soon as possible, if you think you may have been exposed.

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