Blood Borne Infections

A bloodborne disease is a disease that can be spread through contamination by blood and other body fluids. Bloodborne pathogens are microorganisms such as viruses or bacteria. The most common examples are HIV, hepatitis B and viral hemorrhagic fevers. Diseases that are not usually transmitted directly by blood contact, but rather by insect or other vector, are more usefully classified as vector borne diseases. Many bloodborne diseases can also be contracted by other means, including high-risk sexual behavior or intravenous drug use. Since it is difficult to determine what pathogens any given sample of blood contains, and some bloodborne diseases are lethal, standard medical practice regards all blood (and any body fluid) as potentially infectious.
Exposures to blood and other body fluids occur across a wide variety of occupations. Health care workers, emergency response and public safety personnel, and other workers can be exposed to blood through needlestick and other sharps injuries, mucous membrane, and skin exposures. The pathogens of primary concern are the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and hepatitis B, C D viruses. Workers and employers should take advantage of available engineering controls and work practices to prevent exposure to blood and other body fluids.

Exposure to bloodborne pathogens can occur through many mechanisms: needle sticks, being splashed with blood or body fluids on the mucous membranes (the mouth, eyes, and nose), even in some cases human bites (although the risk of transmission via human bites is extremely low). However, contact with bloodborne pathogens falls into two main categories: direct (via an open lesion on the skin or mucous membrane) and indirect (via punctures by contaminated sharps or needles). Bloodborne pathogens enter the body through blood or oher potentially infectious materials (body fluids, amniotic fluid, semen, vaginal fluids).


back to the top