Bloodborne pathogensBloodborne infections
A pathogen is something that causes disease. Germs that can have a long-lasting presence in human blood and disease in humans are called bloodborne pathogens.
The most common and dangerous germs spread through blood in the hospital are:
- Hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV). These viruses cause infections and liver damage.
Hepatitis B is irritation and swelling (inflammation) of the liver due to infection with the hepatitis B virus (HBV). Other types of viral hepatitis ...Read Article Now Book Mark Article
- HIV (human immunodeficiency virus). This virus causes HIV/AIDS.
You can be infected with HBV, HCV, or HIV if you are stuck with a needle or other sharp object that has touched the blood or bodily fluids of a person who has one of these infections.
These infections can also spread if infected blood or bloody bodily fluids touch mucous membranes or an open sore or cut. Mucous membranes are the moist parts of your body, such as in your eyes, nose, and mouth.
HIV can also spread from one person to another through fluid in your joints or spinal fluid. And it can spread through semen, fluids in the vagina, breast milk, and amniotic fluid (the fluid that surrounds a baby in the womb).
More About Hepatitis and HIV infections
- Symptoms of hepatitis B and hepatitis C may be mild, and not start until 2 weeks to 6 months after contact with the virus. Sometimes, there are no symptoms.
- Hepatitis B often gets better on its own and sometimes does not need to be treated. Some people develop a long-term infection that leads to liver damage.
- Most people who become infected with hepatitis C develop a long-term infection. After many years, they often have liver damage.
After someone is infected with HIV, the virus stays in the body. It slowly harms or destroys the immune system. Your body's immune system fights disease and helps you heal. When it is weakened by HIV, you are more likely to get sick from other infections, including ones that would not normally make you sick.
Treatment can help people with all of these infections.
Hepatitis B can be prevented by a vaccine. There is no vaccine to prevent hepatitis C or HIV.
What to Do If You are Exposed
If you are stuck with a needle, get blood in your eye, or are exposed to any bloodborne pathogen:
Stuck with a needle
Being exposed to sharps (needles) or body fluids means that another person's blood or other body fluid touches your body. Exposure may occur after a...Read Article Now Book Mark Article
- Wash the area. Use soap and water on your skin. If your eye is exposed, irrigate with clean water, saline, or a sterile irrigant.
- Tell your supervisor right away that you were exposed.
- Get medical help right away.
You may or may not need lab tests, a vaccine, or medicines.
Preventing Hepatitis and HIV Infections in the Hospital
Isolation precautions create barriers between people and germs. They help prevent the spread of germs in the hospital.
Isolation precautions create barriers between people and germs. These types of precautions help prevent the spread of germs in the hospital. Anybody...Read Article Now Book Mark Article
Follow standard precautions with all people.
When you are near or are handling blood, bodily fluids, body tissues, mucous membranes, or areas of open skin, you must use personal protective equipment (PPE). Depending on the exposure, you may need:
Personal protective equipment (PPE)
Personal protective equipment is special equipment you wear to create a barrier between you and germs. This barrier reduces the chance of touching, ...Read Article Now Book Mark Article
- Mask and goggles
- Apron, gown, and shoe covers
It is also important to properly clean up afterward.
Clean up afterward
Germs from a person may be found on any object the person touched or on equipment that was used during their care. Some germs can live up to 5 month...Read Article Now Book Mark Article
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Bloodborne infectious diseases: HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B, hepatitis C. www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/bbp. Updated September 6, 2016. Accessed October 22, 2019.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Disinfection and sterilization. www.cdc.gov/infectioncontrol/guidelines/disinfection/index.html. Updated May 24, 2019. Accessed October 22, 2019.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Isolation precautions. www.cdc.gov/infectioncontrol/guidelines/isolation/index.html. Updated July 22, 2019. Accessed October 22, 2019.
Weld ED, Shoham S. Epidemiology, prevention, and management of occupational exposure to bloodborne infections. In: Cameron AM, Cameron JL, eds. Current Surgical Therapy. 13th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:1347-1352.
Review Date: 9/29/2019
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.