Top 3 Bloodborne Pathogens Every Medical Worker Needs to Know

All healthcare workers are at risk of being exposed to bloodborne pathogens. Doctors, dentists, and nurses are often at risk due to their professions and interaction with patients. First responders, lab technicians, and waste disposal workers could also be compromised.

People in these professions must be immunized before they start training or as soon as possible at work. It also helps if one goes over the list of bloodborne pathogens and learns how to reduce the risk of infection.

What are Bloodborne Pathogens?

Bloodborne pathogens are microorganisms found in human blood that can cause diseases. HIV and Hepatitis B are two examples of diseases caused by these pathogens.

Bloodborne pathogens are spread in three different ways – direct contact, indirect contact, and respiratory droplets. As the term implies, a direct contract is when body fluid or blood from an infected person enters another person.

Indirect contact is when an object with the blood and body fluid of an infected person touches another individual’s skin. For example, a health worker can be infected if they’re injured with a needle used by someone with HIV.

The third way bloodborne pathogens are transmitted is via respiratory droplets. It happens when an infected person sneezes or coughs and the droplets expelled from their mouth are inhaled by another person. It’s the method by which the coronavirus is transmitted.

Top 3 Bloodborne Pathogens

The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C are the big three bloodborne pathogens. It’s because they’re severe diseases and their virus are transmitted easily. Here’s what you should know about them:

●     Human Immunodeficiency Virus

The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is probably at the top of the list of bloodborne pathogens. The first HIV cases in the US were initially reported in June 1981. Now over 1.2 million Americans are living with HIV, and around 35,000 new infections are reported every year.

The virus attacks the body’s immune system. The compromised cells make it hard for the body to fight off infections and other diseases. If untreated, HIV can lead to full-blown Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS).

HIV is commonly transmitted via sexual contact. It’s transferred through vaginal fluids, pre-ejaculation, and semen. It’s also transmissible by blood, sharing syringes, and accidental injuries with infected needles. Mothers with HIV can also pass the virus to their newborns through breastfeeding.

An individual infected with HIV often experiences flu-like symptoms two to four weeks after infection. Other symptoms include:

●     Fever

●     Mouth ulcers

●     Night sweats

●     Rash

●     Sore throat

●     Swollen lymph nodes

Some people with HIV don’t show any symptoms or feel sick. An asymptomatic patient can develop a chronic infection because the virus wasn’t treated immediately and could eventually develop into AIDS.

There’s no cure for HIV, but it can be controlled. Those with the virus can live healthy lives. They’re also not contagious If they use preventive measures like practicing safe sex and regular testing. Hospitals are using universal precautions when there’s the possibility of exposure to HIV-infected blood.

●     Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a severe liver infection caused by the Hepatitis B virus (HBV). It’s spread when semen, blood, or other body fluids from an infected patient enters a body. The transmission can happen during sex, by sharing syringes, needles, and other drug-injection paraphernalia. A mother with Hepatitis B can transmit the disease to her newborn.

Common symptoms of HBV are:

●     Dark-colored urine

●     Fatigue

●     Fever

●     Loss of appetite

●     Nausea

Some patients with HBV are asymptomatic.

A hepatitis B infection often resolves by itself, but it can take up to six months to clear. Some cases can become chronic. There’s also no cure for the condition, only management. It can result in life-threatening problems like cirrhosis, liver cancer, and liver failure.

Vaccination is the best cure for HBV. Healthcare organizations are required to offer vaccination to employees.

●     Hepatitis C

The Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is another virus that also has a severe impact on the liver. Like Hepatitis B, an infected mother can transmit the virus to their child. The transmission also happens from the use of drug paraphernalia and unprotected sex.

The virus can go undetected for years, and someone infected won’t show symptoms until it’s too late. Once they do, it’s often a sign of advanced liver infection. They often exhibit the following:

●     Darkened urine

●     Fever

●     Joint pain

●     Stools that are clay-colored

●     Vomiting

There’s no vaccine for Hepatitis C, but treatment is available. About 90% of people with HPC have been cured. Prevention is still the best option to stop the spread of this disease.

There’s a long list of bloodborne pathogens to watch out for, although HIV, HVB, and HVC are the most prevalent. People working in the medical field are all at risk for infections. You can avoid worst-case scenarios with proper prevention and training.

Huynh Nguyen

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