5 Facts about Bloodborne Pathogens (BBPs)

What Are Bloodborne Pathogens?

Bloodborne Pathogens (BBPs) are infectious microorganisms present in human blood that can cause diseases in humans. Other potentially infectious materials, such as certain body fluids, can also carry bloodborne pathogens. These pathogens are often perceived as frightening and intimidating due to their potential to cause severe illnesses. However, with proper knowledge, training, and precautions, handling situations involving BBPs can be managed safely and effectively.

1. Transmission of BBPs

Routes of Transmission

BBPs can be transmitted through various routes, which include:

Accidental Cuts with Contaminated Sharp Materials:
  • Needlestick Injuries: Healthcare workers are particularly at risk of BBP transmission through needlestick injuries. These occur when needles that have been used on an infected person accidentally puncture the skin of another person. This type of injury is a significant concern for occupational exposure, highlighting the need for preventive measures and regulations to protect healthcare workers.
  • Sharp Objects: Other sharp instruments like scalpels or broken glass contaminated with infected blood can also cause transmission if they cut or puncture the skin.
Contact with Mucous Membranes or Broken Skin:
  • Mucous Membrane Contact: BBPs can enter the body through the mucous membranes of the eyes, nose, and mouth. This can happen if infected blood or body fluids splash into these areas.
  • Broken Skin: Any open cuts, abrasions, or sores on the skin can serve as entry points for BBPs if they come into contact with infected body fluids.

Sharing of Needles:
  • Drug Use: Sharing needles for intravenous drug use is a common mode of transmission for BBPs, particularly Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, and HIV.
  • Medical Equipment: Inadequately sterilized medical instruments and needles can also be a source of BBP transmission.
Sexual Contact:
  • Unprotected Sex: Engaging in unprotected sexual activities can result in the exchange of body fluids, facilitating the transmission of BBPs such as HIV, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C.
  • High-Risk Behaviors: Multiple sexual partners and having an existing sexually transmitted infection (STI) increase the risk of BBP transmission.

2. Maternal Transmission

From Mother to Child

BBPs can be transmitted from an infected mother to her child during various stages, including:

  • Pregnancy: Pathogens can cross the placental barrier and infect the fetus.
  • Labor and Delivery: The baby can come into contact with infected blood and body fluids during childbirth.
  • Breastfeeding: Certain BBPs, like HIV, can be transmitted through breast milk.

Proper prenatal care and preventive measures can significantly reduce the risk of maternal transmission of BBPs.

3. Mucous Membrane Absorption

Risk of Transmission

BBPs can be transmitted through absorption via the eyes or other mucous membranes. This type of transmission occurs when an infectious person's blood or body fluids come into contact with the eyes, nose, or mouth of another person.

  • Splash Incidents: Healthcare workers are at risk during procedures where blood or body fluids might splash, such as surgeries or when handling blood samples.
  • Protective Measures: Using protective gear such as face shields, goggles, and masks can help prevent such transmissions by creating a barrier between the fluids and mucous membranes.

4. Prevalence of Hepatitis C

Common Bloodborne Infection

Hepatitis C (HCV) is the most common bloodborne infection worldwide. It primarily spreads through direct blood-to-blood contact.

  • Chronic Infection: Many people with HCV develop chronic infection, which can lead to severe liver diseases such as cirrhosis, liver cancer, and liver failure.
  • Asymptomatic Nature: HCV often has no symptoms in its early stages, making it difficult to detect without screening.
  • Treatment: While there is no vaccine for HCV, antiviral medications can cure most cases of HCV infection. Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial for managing the disease and preventing serious health complications.

5. Types of Bloodborne Pathogens

Common BBPs: Human Immunodeficiency Virus

BBPs include a range of pathogens that can cause significant health issues, including:

Hepatitis B Virus (HBV):
  • Liver Infection: HBV causes liver infection, which can lead to chronic liver disease and liver cancer.
  • Vaccination: A vaccine is available and highly effective in preventing HBV infection. It is recommended for all infants and high-risk individuals.

Hepatitis C Virus (HCV):


  • Chronic Liver Disease: HCV is a leading cause of chronic liver disease and liver cancer.
  • No Vaccine: Currently, there is no vaccine for HCV, but effective treatments are available.
  • Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV):

  • AIDS: HIV causes Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS), a condition that severely weakens the immune system, making the body susceptible to other infections and diseases.
  • Treatment: While there is no cure for HIV, antiretroviral therapy (ART) can manage the infection and prolong the lives of those infected.

Importance of Proper BBP Handling

Risk Mitigation in Occupational Exposure

Handling BBPs correctly is crucial to avoid exposure and subsequent infections. This is important in workplaces, healthcare settings, and even during personal emergencies. Proper BBP handling involves:

  • Use of PPE:

    Gloves: Protect hands from direct contact with blood and body fluids.
  • Masks: Prevent inhalation of infectious agents.
  • Gowns: Protect clothing and skin from contamination.
  • Eye Protection: Shields eyes from splashes of infectious materials.

BSI Practices:


  • Universal Precautions: Treating all body fluids as potentially infectious.
  • Hand Hygiene: Frequent and proper handwashing to remove contaminants.
  • Safe Disposal: Proper disposal of sharps and contaminated materials to prevent accidental exposure.

Training and Certification:


  • BBP Training Programs: Regular training ensures that individuals are up-to-date with the latest safety protocols and procedures.
  • Certification: Certification programs, such as those offered by MyCPR NOW™, provide comprehensive training on BBP handling, PPE use, and response measures.


Understanding Bloodborne Pathogens and the risks they pose is essential for everyone, especially those in healthcare and emergency response roles. By learning proper handling techniques and using PPE and BSI practices, individuals can protect themselves and others from serious infections. Enrolling in BBP training and certification programs ensures that you are prepared to deal with potential exposures safely and effectively.

Proper handling of bloodborne pathogens is particularly crucial in health care settings, where the risk of occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens is high due to needlesticks and sharps injuries. This includes hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, emergency care services, and private homes.

Stay informed and protect yourself by taking online BBP training and certification with MyCPR NOW™. These programs cover universal precautions, PPE use, and what to do in case of exposure, helping you stay safe and keep others safe as well.

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