Transmitting Bloodborne Pathogens
Phlebotomists are required to wear disposable gloves when collecting blood samples.
Fluids that Spread Bloodborne Pathogens
The transmission of bloodborne pathogens from one person to another
occurs through the transfer of infected body fluids.
Common body fluids which can transmit pathogens include:
- cerebral spinal fluid
- vaginal secretions
Semen and vaginal secretions can transmit bloodborne pathogens, but
only during sexual contact.
Wearing disposable gloves can help protect you from accidental
exposure to bloodborne pathogens.
Fluids that Do Not Spread Bloodborne Pathogens
Some body fluids have no documented risk of transmitting pathogens,
Although the risk of
contracting a pathogen from these bodily fluids might be low, you may
not always be able to tell which fluids you are handling, or whether an
injury has mixed them with blood.
For example, a severe abdominal injury
could cause blood to be present in urine or feces. Therefore, it is best
to protect yourself from ALL bodily
How Bloodborne Pathogens are Transmitted
There are two basic categories of transmission of bloodborne pathogens:
- Non-occupational bloodborne pathogens are most commonly transmitted through:
Occupational bloodborne pathogens are most commonly transmitted through:
- sexual contact; or
- sharing hypodermic needles.
- puncture wounds from a sharp or contaminated object, such as broken glass; or
- from a splash of blood to the mucous membranes of the eyes, nose, or mouth.
Protect Yourself from All Bodily Fluids
It's important to remember the hepatitis B virus can remain
infectious outside of the body for up to 7 days. For this reason, it is
essential that cleanup and decontamination of contaminated objects and
surfaces be performed as soon as possible. This will reduce the risk of
indirect contact resulting in a bloodborne exposure incident.
Understanding how bloodborne pathogens are transmitted will help
reduce your risk of exposure and infection. How can health care workers be exposed to bloodborne pathogens on the job? There are three categories of contact to bloodborne pathogens: casual, direct, and indirect.
- Casual social contact, such as casually shaking hands, hugging, or sharing a telephone or tool, does not transmit bloodborne pathogens
- Direct contact any contact with blood or other potentially infectious materials (OPIM) can directly cause an exposure incident. Examples include:
Indirect contact with a contaminated object, such as a countertop, bedding, or clothing, can indirectly cause an exposure incident
- Needlesticks or cuts from used needles or sharps
- Contact of your eyes, nose, mouth, or broken skin with blood
- Assaults – bites, cuts, or knife wounds
- Splashes or punctures – especially when drawing blood
How can you protect yourself?
Generally, engineering controls, work practice controls, and personal protective equipment are most common exposure control methods. Each of the actions below are effective methods to help protect against exposure to bloodborne pathogens.
- Get the hepatitis B vaccine
- Read and understand your employer’s Exposure Control Plan
- Dispose of used sharps promptly into an appropriate sharps disposal container
- Use sharps devices with safety features whenever possible
- Use personal protective equipment (PPE), such as gloves and face shields, every time there is a potential for exposure to blood or body fluids
- Clean work surfaces with germicidal products
If you are exposed to bloodborne pathogens, take the following actions:
- Wash needlesticks and cuts with soap and water
- Flush splashes to nose, mouth, or skin with water
- Irrigate eyes with clean water, saline, or sterile wash
- Report all exposures promptly to ensure that you receive appropriate followup care
Jasmine is a daycare worker taking
care of children between the ages of 6 months and 12 years.
Kevin is a 3-year-old child at the daycare center and has been
complaining of a stomachache. Suddenly Kevin begins to vomit
unexpectedly. After Kevin's parents have been called to pick him
up, Jasmine is asked to clean up the mess.
Should Jasmine be concerned about bloodborne pathogens?
Although vomit is not documented as a risk for transmitting bloodborne pathogens, it is often impossible
to determine if there is blood mixed in with the vomit. Even a very small amount of blood has the potential
to transmit disease. You should always prevent contact with bodily fluids, regardless of whether blood is
visible in the fluids.