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Bloodborne Pathogens- Know Your Risk

Bloodborne Pathogens

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April 17, 2018

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If you are working in a hospital, clinical lab, or another setting where you may come in contact with blood and other body fluids, you’re at risk of being exposed to Bloodborne Pathogens. It can cause severe and deadly diseases. To keep you safe from these infectious materials, staying informed about what BBP are and how to avoid them is critical. Of course, exposure to infectious materials is part of your job. Still, protecting yourself and others from the possible risk of exposure is part of your job too. Know what are the risk and how you can prevent exposure in this article.

What you need to know

Occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens has long been known to be a risk for healthcare workers. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Center for Disease Control, 5.6 million health care workers in the United States are exposed to bloodborne pathogens every day. Knowing in advance all that you can learn about exposure to blood and how improper handling can be dangerous to your health is your first defense in being protected. Also, have a clear understanding that your employer is required by state or provincial law to provide each employee with the proper protective gear and education as part of their adherence to the OSHA standards. Consider taking additional courses offered at Universities on certification with Bloodborne pathogens to add an extra layer of self-protection and proactiveness.

What are the most common Bloodborne Pathogens?

The three most common bloodborne pathogens are HIV or Human Immunodeficiency Virus, hepatitis B virus, and hepatitis C (HBV and HCV). These are not only the most common bloodborne infections, but they are also three of the most devastating disease in humans.

Many viral hemorrhagic fevers (VHF) like Ebola virus disease, Lassa fever, Marburg, and Dengue result from bloodborne pathogens. However, these are not common in the United States. They can be found in some parts of Africa and the Middle East. 

What can you do to stay safe?

The best way to prevent bloodborne pathogens from spreading is to follow universal precautions. Universal precautions treat all human blood and other bodily fluids as potentially infectious. Standard precautions include washing hands and using protective or barrier equipment such as gloves, gowns, and masks. It’s also essential to implement an exposure control plan to minimize employee exposure.

Personal Protective Equipment

When taking bloodborne pathogen awareness courses, you will learn about PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). Using this personal protective equipment properly regardless of the situation can make all the difference from a prevention standpoint against bloodborne pathogens. Any time you’re near or poised to encounter bodily fluids, wearing protective gloves is the first line of defense against the risk of exposure. You should be wearing gloves when providing first aid and patient care, handling any soiled bedding/clothing, cleaning surfaces that may contaminate, and handling garbage containing bodily fluids or contaminated materials. Whenever possible, wearing personal protective equipment like masks and goggles should be exercised to avoid blood exposure or contamination from splashing fluids or from the possibility of them entering your respiratory system and or bloodstream.

Hygiene is Non-Negotiable

Not unlike what you’ve been told your entire life, washing your hands frequently is not optional but rather essential, especially when you are a person who has a greater chance of potential exposure to human body fluids. If you’ve taken a bloodborne pathogens safety course, you would have been taught that washing any contaminated skin, including hands, is essential when you have contact with blood. Using hot soapy water and vigorous scrubbing could decide between contracting a bloodborne illness or staying healthy. 

Referring to the OSHA standards, all employers must provide an easily-accessible designated hand-washing station for each on-staff employee; if you’re not aware of where these exist in your workplace, consult with your supervisor. Awareness is key!

It likely needs not to be stated, but how you dispose of contaminated materials is equally important as using them correctly. Before leaving the area, you were working in and using the PPE, ensure you’ve removed all equipment (masks and gloves, etc.) and disposed of them securely and properly. Your employer should also provide an adequate and properly labeled storage facility or containers where you can clean, decontaminate and dispose of used items. Ensure you are referring to the specific information you’ve been given by your employer and any instruction you’ve learned in the Bloodborne pathogens courses you’ve taken.

Common Sense Approach

Bear in mind that when it comes to bloodborne pathogen risk for exposure, all equipment, instructions, and training available will be useless if you don’t put what you’ve been trained on to practical use. By exercising common sense, means taking a minute or two to assess the situation, determine what your best course of action is, use provided materials and a means to an end any possible dangers, and provide the necessary care. Further, educate yourself to feel exceptionally equipped to deal with any situation you’re presented with.

Keeping the PACT acronym at the forefront of your mind will help you make clear-headed decisions and stay alert. 

  • P for PROTECTING yourself from bloodborne pathogens
  • A for the ACT, when exposed to contaminated materials or blood
  • C for CLEAN affected areas and yourself to avoid a risk of infection
  • T for TELL your employer anytime you’ve been potentially exposed in your place of work.

Bloodborne Pathogens Training

Knowing how best to prevent exposure to infectious materials can make a crucial difference in whether possible illnesses endanger you or if you’re instead protected against them. If you are a health care worker, employed in a service industry where you can have occupational exposure to blood or you just wish to be proactively prepared in case of emergencies, consider taking a Bloodborne Pathogens training at your local University or training institute. Bloodborne Pathogens training will teach you everything you need to know about these infectious materials.

Frequently Asked Questions About Bloodborne Pathogen

What is the most infectious bloodborne virus?
In the United States, Hepatitis C is the most commonly reported bloodborne infection. It is a serious public health problem, primarily transmitted via parenteral exposure, most commonly contaminated needles.

How can you become exposed?
Any breaking in the skin like human bites and needle devices gives infected body fluids ways to enter your body. Likewise, cuts, scrapes, rashes, and other minor injuries are entryways for bloodborne pathogens. The eyes, nose, mouth, and other mucous membranes are openings where infections can enter.

What is the most common exposure route in the healthcare setting?
Bloodborne pathogen transmission in the healthcare setting occurs predominantly by percutaneous or mucosal exposure of health care workers and public safety professionals to infected patients’ blood or body fluids.

What are the human body fluids that a bloodborne pathogen can infect?

Bloodborne diseases such as Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Hepatitis C and B can be transmitted through contact with infected body fluids such as semen, vaginal secretion, synovial fluid, pleural fluid, peritoneal fluid, amniotic fluid, and cerebrospinal fluid.