Bloodborne Pathogens | WKCTC

Bloodborne Pathogens

Bloodborne pathogens are disease causing organisms, including viruses and bacteria, that may be present in human blood, blood components or blood products. Bloodborne pathogens can make you very ill. Some can even kill.

  • HIV (human immunodeficiency virus0, the virus that causes AIDS
  • HBV (hepatitis B virus), a virus that can cause serious liver damage
  • HCV (hepatitis C virus), another virus that can cause liver disease

Many other  Bloodborne diseases pose a threat to people in both health-care and home-care settings.

  • Hepatitis D
  • Diphtheria
  • Syphilis
  • Ebola (viral hemorrhagic fever)
  • Malaria
  • Herpes

Other body substances may also spread Bloodborne pathogens:

  • blood products (such as plasma)
  • semen
  • vaginal secretions
  • fluid in the uterus of a pregnant woman
  • fluids surrounding the brain, spine, heart, and joints
  • fluids in the chest and abdomen

Anyone who works in
or visits a health-care facility can become infected with a Bloodborne pathogen. But some people face a higher risk.

  • Certain health-care staff
    Have more risk of exposure to blood or other body substances in health-care settings:
    • physicians
    • nurses
    • lab workers
    • housekeepers
    • emergency medical service providers
    • home health-care workers
    • dentists and members of their staff
    • workers who handle regulated wastes
  • Patients who are ill, injured or otherwise weakened may be especially  vulnerable to infection. Taking steps to prevent
    transmission of Bloodborne  pathogens helps keep patients, their families and  other visitors out  of harm’s way.

Infections are most likely to occur when contaminated blood or other body  substances come in contact with a person’s:

  • broken skin – examples include skin that's been jabbed with a  needle or cut with a sharp object, or skin with an existing cut, rash or burn
  • mucous membranes - splashing or spraying blood can cause infection through the delicate tissues of the eyes, nose and mouth.


Standard Precautions are CDC infection  control  recommendations. Lourdes uses Standard Precautions, because they:

  1. Combine the main ideas from Universal Precautions and Body Substance Isolation. Standard Precautions require health-care workers to treat all human blood – and any body fluid, secretion, excretion or discharge (except sweat), whether or not it contains visible blood – as if it is infected with a Bloodborne pathogen.
  2. Apply to a host of situations. Standard  Precautions are required during any procedure where there’s a chance of:
    • exposure to blood, body fluids, secretions or excretions (except sweat)
    • contact with broken skin or mucous membranes
  3. Cover all types of patients. Standard Precautions apply to the care of all patients (including those receiving home care), whether or not they have a confirmed or suspected infection.


  1. The hepatitis B virus (HBV) can cause:
    • active hepatitis B – a flu-like illness that can last for months
    • A chronic carrier state – the person may have no symptoms, but can pass HBV to  others
    • Cirrhosis, liver cancer – and death.

    Fortunately, vaccines are available to prevent HBV infection.

  2. The hepatitis C virus (HCV)
    • Symptoms of active infection are milder than those of HBV - or may not even be present. But, HCV is more likely to cause:
      • a chronic carrier state
      • cirrhosis, liver cancer - and death
  3. Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
    • Causes AIDS
    • HIV attacks the immune system, making the body less able to fight off infections. In most cases, these infections eventually prove fatal.

These pathogens can be spread when infected fluids enter the body through:

  • Needle-stick injuries
  • Cuts, scrapes and other breaks in the skin
  • Splashes into the mouth, nose or eyes
  • Oral, vaginal or anal sex
  • Using infected drug needles

Pregnant women who are infected with these pathogens can pass them to their babies.

There are other Bloodborne pathogens that cause diseases such as syphilis and malaria. But your greatest risks are from HBV, HCV, and HIV.

Use required equipment and labels for your job. These may include:

  • Autoclaves for sterilizing equipment.
  • Biological safety cabinets which help protect lab workers from airborne particles.
  • Special tools such as needles designed to help prevent needle-stick injuries.
  • Special containers for potentially contaminated materials.
    • used sharps (needles, broken glass or any object that can pierce the skin)
    • other regulated wastes (gloves contaminated with blood or other body substances, used dressing, etc.)
    • contaminated laundry.
  • Biohazard labels which display the biohazards symbol with the word BIOHAZARD, (Red bags or containers may be used in place of labels.)
  • Follow required work practices for your job:
    • Cover cuts, scrapes, hangnails, rashes, etc.
    • Don't eat, drink or smoke in work areas where Bloodborne pathogens may be present. Don't handle contact lenses or apply cosmetics or lip balm in these areas.
    • Handle sharps carefully. Never bend, break or recap needles. (Gloves will not keep you from being stuck.)
    • Wash you skill immediately after contact with body substances or objects that might be contaminated. If soap and running water available:
      • Use antiseptic hand cleaners
      • Wash with soap and running water as soon as you can.
      • Then, report the incident.
    • Minimize splashing of fluids. For example, cover a specimen tube with gauze before pulling out the stopper.
    • Keep food and beverages where they belong - not in refrigerators, freezers or cabinets used for infectious materials.
  • Use required personal protective equipment (PPE)
    • Wear gloves if contact with blood, other body substances or contaminated objects is possible. Never reuse disposable latex or nylon gloves.
    • Wash your hands before putting on and after removing gloves.
    • Remove gloves so that the glove's outer surface never touches our skin.
      1. Grasp the outside of a glove near the wrist
      2. Pull down until the glove comes off inside-out
      3. Cup this glove in the palm of your gloved hand. Then, insert 2 fingers of your bare hand inside the cuff of the remaining glove
      4. Pull down so this glove also comes off inside-out - with the first glove tucked inside.
  • Wear other PPE as needed:
    • Wear a mask and eye protection, or a full face shield, if fluids could splash or spray into your eyes, nose or mouth.
    • Wear an apron or a gown if fluids could splash or drip onto your clothing. If fluid penetrates the apron or gown, change it as soon as possible.
    • Wear other PPE, such as a cap, a hood and shoe coverings, when exposure to a lot of fluids is possible (such as during surgery, autopsy or embalming).
  • Use a resuscitation device or pocket resuscitation mask when providing rescue breathing.
  • Remove contaminated PPE and other contaminated clothing carefully—while wearing gloves. Remember to wash your hands after removing PPE.


  • Don't tough broken glass. Pick it up with tongs, or use a broom and dustpan.
  • Dispose of sharps in a covered, puncture-resistant, leak proof container that is red or labeled with the biohazard symbol.
  • Place other contaminated wastes (linens, gloves, etc.) in a leak proof container or bag that is red or labeled with the biohazard symbol. (Bag linens where they were used.) If the outside of the container or bag
    becomes  contaminated, place it in another container or bag.
  • Never reach into trash to retrieve an object.
  • Report full sharps containers and waste containers. See that they are covered, removed and replaced.
  • Clean equipment and work surfaces at the end of your shift, as well as when visibly contaminated. Wear gloves. Use approved disinfectant towelettes.


Consider getting the hepatitis B vaccine. It's your best protection against hepatitis B.

The vaccine is given in series of doses (usually 3 shots over 6  months). You must get each dose for the
vaccine to work. You may need a booster shot later on.

Ask your personal health-care provider is there is any reason you should not have the vaccine. (For example, people allergic to yeast should not have it.) Tell your health-care provider if you are pregnant.

Wash the exposed area immediately with soap and running water. Scrub vigorously with lots of lather. Try to save the sharp or other contaminated object for testing.

Report the incident promptly using the appropriate reporting system.

Get medical help and counseling. Report to your Supervisor or Instructor.

Ask about current treatments your personal physician will recommend appropriate treatment options and/or the policy will be followed according to your clinical site for treatment recommendations.