Understanding Bloodborne Pathogens

Understanding Bloodborne Pathogens

As an employer, business owner, or other person in charge of managing the workplace, it's important to understand how you can keep your employees and others safe. One way to help keep everyone healthy and prevent accidents is by making sure that you know about bloodborne pathogens and how they are transmitted in the workplace.

What are bloodborne pathogens?

Bloodborne pathogens are germs that can be transmitted through blood, semen, vaginal secretions, or other body fluids. The most common bloodborne pathogens include HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), hepatitis B virus (HBV), and hepatitis C virus (HCV).

HIV is the virus that causes AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome). It's transmitted when infected blood enters your body through an open wound or cut in your skin; through contact with mucous membranes such as those inside the mouth or vagina; during pregnancy from mother to child; by breastfeeding infants who have been exposed to their mothers' milk--and through sexual contact with an infected person.

HBV infects up to one-third of Americans at some point in their lives but only about 10 percent will ever show symptoms of infection because most people develop immunity after contracting it once in childhood from vaccination programs or natural exposure from parents who carry HBV without knowing they do so until later life when symptoms appear due to advancing age when immunity levels decline naturally over time regardless if vaccinated previously against this disease before entering adulthood stage where most children receive vaccinations during elementary school years so immunity lasts long enough past adolescence stage until adulthood where natural immunity begins declining again due to aging process causing chronic diseases such as liver cancer caused by chronic hepatitis B infection which leads eventually death if left untreated long enough period time before diagnosis occurs

How do you get infected with a bloodborne pathogen?

There are two ways to get infected with a bloodborne pathogen:

  • Through the use of needles and other sharp instruments that come into contact with your blood or other body fluids. If you're working in a medical setting, this is most likely to occur when you're drawing blood from patients or administering injections, but it can also happen if you handle used needles at home (e.g., if someone has been using them for recreational drug use).
  • Through skin-to-skin contact with another person who has an infectious disease and/or their bodily fluids (e.g., saliva). This type of transmission is more common than direct needle sticks and occurs most often among healthcare workers who don't take proper precautions while treating patients who have hepatitis C or HIV/AIDS--or even just people who share razors/knives while shaving!

Who is at risk of getting infected with a bloodborne pathogen?

Bloodborne pathogens are extremely dangerous and can be transmitted by coming into contact with blood or other bodily fluids. People who work in healthcare settings, first responders, and people who work in industries where bloodborne pathogens are a concern have an increased risk of infection.

  • Healthcare workers: Those who work in hospitals, clinics, doctor's offices, and other medical facilities have the highest risk of exposure to these dangerous diseases because they come into direct contact with the patient's blood on a daily basis. For example, nurses often need to draw blood from patients; doctors perform surgery on patients who may have been exposed to these viruses; dentists perform root canals that expose them directly to infected tissue.
  • First responders (firefighters/EMTs): These individuals may be exposed when responding to emergency calls involving trauma victims whose injuries include punctures from broken glass or sharp objects like nails.
  • People who share needles or other injection equipment: If someone uses intravenous drugs such as heroin or methamphetamines then they will likely share their needles with others who use intravenous drugs as well.
  • People who have had needle stick injuries: Injuries caused by accidental punctures by contaminated sharps (needles) are considered "percutaneous injuries" since they occur through the skin during accidents such as handling contaminated sharps improperly.
  • All people working in industries where bloodborne pathogens are a concern: This includes health care workers along with those working at tattoo parlors; barbershops; salons that offer manicures/pedicures services etc

How do you know if you have been exposed to a bloodborne pathogen?

If you have been exposed to a bloodborne pathogen, you may experience symptoms such as fever, chills, and body aches. These symptoms can appear within a few days or weeks of exposure. The incubation period for hepatitis B is up to 50 days; hepatitis C and HIV have longer incubation periods (up to six months).

As soon as possible after exposure:

  • Get tested for HBV/HCV/HIV at a lab that offers rapid results (usually 24 hours). If the test result is positive for any of these infections, follow up with your doctor right away so they can recommend further treatment options and discuss whether post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is appropriate for you.

What can be done to prevent transmission of bloodborne pathogens in the workplace?

To prevent transmission of bloodborne pathogens in the workplace, you should:

  • Use personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves and masks when exposed to blood and other body fluids.
  • Avoid needlestick injuries by using sharps with caution and care. When handling needles, never re-sheathe them or let them roll around on the floor where they could be stepped on by someone else. Dispose of sharp instruments in a puncture-resistant container that is labeled "infectious waste".
  • Wash hands or other skin surfaces before leaving the patient's room after providing care, even if you don't think you were exposed to bodily fluids during your visit. This helps prevent the spread of infection if another provider comes into contact with blood while caring for that same patient later--especially since some infections may not manifest until several days after exposure! Always follow universal precautions when working around patients who have had surgery or are undergoing treatment for cancerous tumors; these procedures often involve invasive procedures such as chemotherapy treatment where there is likely heavy bleeding involved which increases risk factors associated with transmission via infected wounds created during these procedures.


Bloodborne pathogens are a serious risk to your health, but they can be prevented. If you have been exposed to one of these diseases, it's important to seek medical attention immediately so that treatment can begin as soon as possible.


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