Bloodborne Pathogens are microorganisms (such as viruses) that are present in human blood and can cause disease in humans. These pathogens include, but are not limited to, hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C (HCV) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

How Are Bloodborne Pathogens and Infections Spread?

The Chain of Infection

For disease to be spread, it requires that all of the following conditions be present:

  • An adequate number of pathogens, or disease-causing organisms.
  • A reservoir or source that allows the pathogen to survive and multiply (e.g., blood).
  • A mode of transmission from the source to the host
  • An entrance through which the pathogen may enter the host.
  •  A susceptible host (i.e., one who is not immune).

Effective infection control strategies prevent disease transmission by interrupting one or more links in the chain of infection.

Modes of Transmission

  • Direct contact occurs when microorganisms are transferred from one infected person directly to another person. For example, infected blood from one person enters a care giver’s body through an open cut.
  • Indirect contact involves the transfer of an infectious agent through a contaminated object or person. For example, a caregiver doesn’t wash hands in between caring for someone with infected body fluids and other patients. For Example, Parenteral contact with a needle stick.
  • Airborne transmission occurs when droplets or small particles contain infectious agents that remain effective over time and distance in the air. Tuberculosis is a common disease spread this way. Bloodborne pathogens are not typically spread this way.

How Are Bloodborne Pathogens Spread?

Bodily fluids, especially those visibly contaminated with blood, have the potential to transmit disease
  • cerebrospinal fluid (Brain)
  • synovial fluid (Joints)
  • pleural fluid (Lungs)
  • amniotic fluid (Uterus)
  • pericardial fluid (Heart)
  • peritoneal fluid (Abdomen)
  • semen
  • vaginal secretions
  • blood
  • any body fluid contaminated with blood
  • body fluids that cannot be recognized

Sexual contact is the primary mode of transmission for Bloodborne Pathogens, however the risk of exposure does exist while providing medical or first aid care.

When a contaminated sharp object cuts or punctures the skin. (Parenteral examples: needle stick, illegal drug usage, cut from broken glass, bite).

When an infected body fluid gets into an open cut or mucous membrane (inside eyes, mouth, ears or nose).

When a contaminated object touches inflamed skin, acne, or skin abrasion.

How Are Bloodborne Pathogens NOT spread?

Intact skin is wonderfully created as our first defense against disease. Bloodborne Pathogens cannot “soak” through normal intact skin.

Casual contact like handshakes, hugging, sharing food, doorknobs, sneezing, toilet seats, swimming pools, etc…