The Role of Vaccines in Protecting Against Bloodborne Pathogens

No matter what your job or lifestyle, you are likely to come in contact with bloodborne pathogens at some point. It's estimated that about 1.8 million people are exposed to hepatitis B virus (HBV) and about 22,000 become infected each year in the United States alone. And that's not even counting all of the other diseases spread through blood! We need vaccines for protection against these pathogens because certain bloodborne diseases can cause serious illness or even death if left untreated—and because it takes just one exposure to become infected (and many more exposures before symptoms appear).

What are bloodborne pathogens?

Bloodborne pathogens are infectious agents that can be transmitted from person to person through the exchange of blood. The term "bloodborne" refers to any pathogen that is capable of being spread through contact with infected human or animal blood.

Bloodborne diseases, infections, and pathogens include viruses such as Hepatitis B virus (HBV) and Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), bacteria like Streptococcus pyogenes (Group A strep), Rickettsia rickettsia (Rocky Mountain spotted fever) and Leptospira interrogans serovar Canicola among others. Parasites like Plasmodium falciparum malaria can also be transmitted via the exchange of bodily fluids including blood; however, they do not fit into our definition of a true "pathogen" since they cannot replicate outside their host cells like other viruses do but rather rely on hosts' own cellular machinery for survival inside them.

Why do we need vaccines to protect us from bloodborne pathogens?

Bloodborne pathogens are viruses, bacteria, and parasites that can be transmitted through blood or other bodily fluids. Vaccines can help you develop immunity against these diseases by exposing your body to small amounts of the microorganisms that cause them. This way, when an infection does occur in real life, your immune system is ready for it!

Vaccines are safe and effective at preventing disease:

  • They have been rigorously tested by scientists using rigorous scientific methods (the gold standard).
  • They have been used successfully around the world since their discovery hundreds of years ago so we know they work well under many different circumstances (the silver standard).
  • Doctors recommend them because they know how well they work; moreover, there are years' worth of data showing how safe they are (the bronze standard).

What diseases can bloodborne pathogens cause?

Bloodborne pathogens can cause a number of diseases, including:

Hepatitis B (HBV) and hepatitis C (HCV). These viruses are transmitted through contact with infected blood or body fluids. Hepatitis B is also spread from mother to child during pregnancy, birth, or breastfeeding; by sexual contact; and by sharing needles for injection drug use. The virus lives in the liver for decades before symptoms appear, which include tiredness and lack of appetite as well as jaundice (yellowing of the skin), nausea/vomiting, and abdominal pain. If left untreated it can lead to liver cancer or cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver requiring a transplant in order to survive.

HBV infection can be prevented by vaccination against the hepatitis B virus before exposure occurs; however, there is no cure for this disease once you become infected although antiviral drugs may help prevent damage if taken early enough after exposure has occurred

Are there additional steps you should take to protect yourself against bloodborne pathogens?

You can take additional steps to protect yourself against bloodborne pathogens. These include:

  • Don't share needles or anything that comes in contact with blood, such as syringes, test tubes, pipettes, vials, and other laboratory equipment.
  • Don't donate blood if you are sick and have symptoms such as fever or chills; headache; muscle aches; sore throat; cough; redness or swelling at the site of injection (such as the arm). If someone has had a needle stick injury and is bleeding profusely or has lost consciousness, call 911 immediately! Do not attempt to administer first aid unless trained by an emergency medical provider or healthcare professional because doing so could lead to further contamination of yourself or others with potentially life-threatening consequences!

With proper precautions, you can reduce your risk of contracting a bloodborne disease.

  • Use a barrier between your skin and the needle. You can use gloves, but if they're not available or you don't have them on hand, use a sterile bandage or medical tape.
  • Wash your hands before and after you handle needles and other equipment used to administer vaccinations. Be sure to clean under your fingernails as well--you might just be getting ready for some fun with new friends!
  • Don't share needles or other equipment at all with anyone else, even if they insist that it's okay because they "know" how clean their stuff is (or because they think it's funny). If someone insists on sharing something with you anyway, tell them no thanks--we both know how this story ends up anyway...


We hope that this article has been helpful in educating you about bloodborne pathogens and how to protect yourself against them. It's important to remember that not all vaccines are created equal, so it's important to research which ones will offer the most protection for your particular needs. If you have any questions or concerns about whether or not a vaccine might be right for you, please reach out!

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