Universal and Standard Precautions

Universal precautions are a set of precautions designed to prevent transmission of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis B virus (HBV), and other bloodborne pathogens when providing first aid or healthcare. Universal precautions apply to blood and to other body fluids containing visible blood. Under universal precautions, blood and certain body fluids of all patients are considered potentially infectious for HIV, HBV and other bloodborne pathogens.


Standard Precautions are designed to reduce the risk of transmission of microorganisms from both recognized and unrecognized sources of infection in hospitals. Standard precautions apply to:

  1. blood;
  2. all body fluids, secretions, and excretions, except sweat, regardless of whether or not they contain visible blood;
  3. non-intact skin; and
  4. mucous membranes.

Standard Precautions include:

  1. Hand hygiene
  2. Use of personal protective equipment (e.g., gloves, masks, eyewear)
  3. Respiratory hygiene / cough etiquette
  4. Sharps safety (engineering and work practice controls)
  5. Safe injection practices (i.e., aseptic technique for parenteral medications)
  6. Sterile instruments and devices
  7. Clean and disinfected environmental surfaces

1. A primary control strategy designed to prevent transmission of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis B virus (HBV), and other bloodborne pathogens when providing first aid or healthcare is called _____.

a. nationally approved standards
b. engineering controls
c. universal precautions
d. work practice controls

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Application of Universal Precautions

Protective measures using universal precautions apply to:

  • Human blood, other body fluids containing visible blood, semen, and vaginal secretions.
  • Tissues and to the following fluids:
    • cerebrospinal,
    • synovial,
    • pleural,
    • peritoneal,
    • pericardial, and
    • amniotic fluids.

Blood is the single most important source of HIV, HBV, and other bloodborne pathogens in the occupational setting. Infection control efforts for HIV, HBV, and other bloodborne pathogens must focus on preventing exposures to blood as well as on delivery of HBV immunization.

Universal precautions do not apply to the following fluids and materials unless they contain visible blood:

  • Feces, nasal secretions, sputum, sweat, tears, urine, and vomitus.
  • Saliva, except when in the dental setting where blood contamination of saliva is predictable.

2. Universal precautions do not apply to many bodily fluids and materials unless _____.

a. they have been known to contain blood
b. they may contain blood
c. they contain visible blood
d. they have dried on surfaces

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Personal Protective Equipment

Universal precautions involve the use of personal protective equipment such as gloves, gowns, aprons, masks, or protective eyewear, which can reduce the risk of exposure of the healthcare worker's skin or mucous membranes to potentially infective materials.

In addition, under universal precautions, it is recommended that all healthcare workers take precautions to prevent injuries caused by needles, scalpels, and other sharp instruments or devices.

Pregnant healthcare worker considerations

Pregnant healthcare workers are not known to be at greater risk of contracting HIV infection than are healthcare workers who are not pregnant; however, if a healthcare worker develops HIV infection during pregnancy, the infant is at risk of infection resulting from perinatal transmission.

Because of this risk, pregnant healthcare workers should be especially familiar with, and strictly adhere to, precautions to minimize the risk of HIV transmission.

3. Why should pregnant healthcare workers be especially familiar with, and strictly adhere to, universal precautions?

a. Their level of exposure is higher than other healthcare workers
b. They are more likely to become infected than others
c. To prevent hormonal imbalance in the infant
d. To minimize the risk of HIV transmission

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Robert is interviewing for a nursing position with St. Vincent Hospital in Portland, OR. During the interview he is asked to explain the difference between "universal precautions" and "personal protective equipment."

How should Robert answer this question?

Universal precautions include the use of personal protective equipment, but also include engineering and work practice controls designed to prevent exposure to blood and other potentially infectious materials.

Personal protective equipment refers to equipment designed to reduce or prevent exposure to blood or other potentially infectious materials. Examples of personal protective equipment are: disposable gloves, gowns, face masks, eye shields, and lab coats.

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