What are blood borne pathogens?
Blood borne pathogens are microorganisms in blood or body fluid that cause disease in humans. The two blood borne pathogens that have received the most attention in recent years and pose a serious health threat if contracted are the hepatitis B virus (HBV), and the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The CDC estimates that there are 2.4 million individuals with one of these diseases. Although the spread of these diseases is slowing thousands of Americans are still contracting HBV and HIV yearly.
Methods of transmission
Blood borne pathogens are usually transmitted or passed on when disease organisms enter the body through mucus membranes or breaks in the skin. While intact skin offers some protection, blood borne pathogens may be transmitted through the skin via accidental injection with needles, scalpels and shards of glass. They also may enter the body through open cuts, nicks, skin abrasions and cracked skin caused by various types of dermatitis. At work, the most common exposure to blood borne pathogens occurs when an infected worker has an injury allowing direct exposure to human blood and the person who comes to help them is not wearing the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) or practicing universal precautions.
Universal precautions is a method of infection control in which all blood and certain human body fluids are treated as if known to be infected with HIV, HBV or other blood borne pathogens. Universal precautions must be observed in all situations where there is a potential for contact with blood or other potentially infectious material. PPE should be used in conjunction with universal precautions when dealing with all body fluids.
Qualified, trained first-aid personnel should be equipped to safeguard against this exposure. You should be aware that there is a good possibility that you may have small nicks or cuts on you from previous jobs. These nicks and cuts, in addition to your mouth, nose and eyes are examples of possible entryways for blood borne pathogens to enter your circulatory system.
Personal protective equipment
Personal protective equipment, which includes impervious gloves, gowns, eye protection, and face masks can significantly reduce the health risks for workers exposed to blood and other potentially infectious materials. PPE must be suitable for the level of expected exposure and should be readily accessible to employees and available in appropriate sizes. Employees should be trained in the proper use of PPE and how to respond effectively and safely to an injury.