common bloodborne pathogens

3 Common Bloodborne Pathogens And How To Protect Yourself

Are you working in a clinic, dental office, hospital, clinical laboratory, or any other work setting where there is a high risk of exposure to blood and other potentially infectious bodily fluids? If so, you might have a chance of being exposed to bloodborne pathogens.

What are blood borne pathogens? Well, bloodborne pathogens are microorganisms that can cause serious and potentially fatal diseases in humans. Some bloodborne pathogens may cause few or no symptoms at all, while others can cause severe illness and worse—death. This is why it’s important that you should have a clear understanding of bloodborne pathogens and how to protect yourself from exposure.

Common Bloodborne Pathogens

There are several well-known pathogens that are notorious for being easily transmitted due to poor hygiene in clinics, dental offices, clinical labs, hospitals, etc. Here are the most common of them.

1. HIV

This is the virus that’s responsible for causing AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). As you may already know, AIDS has no known cure yet. While it is primarily transmitted sexually, the virus can also be transmitted through unsterile injections or syringes that were used by an infected person.

Once HIV is transmitted into your body, it will remain and cause damage to your immune system gradually over time. Although there are now treatments available to manage HIV, the disease still has a significant level of stigma attached to it.

2. Hepatitis B (HBV)

Another highly contagious bloodborne virus is Hepatitis B or HBV which can lead to serious liver problems over time. In the US alone, over 2 million Americans have been reported to be infected with this chronic condition without them being aware.

Hepatitis B can cause a variety of other illnesses such as liver cancer and chronic liver disease. When left unattended, a person can die from such complications. Fortunately, a Hepatitis B vaccine has been available and approved in the United States since 1986.

common bloodborne pathogens

3. Hepatitis C (HCV)

Perhaps the most common chronic bloodborne disease in the US is Hepatitis C. Hepatitis C is known for causing liver infection. Symptoms of this virus may not show up right away at first and may take years before they manifest.

But once they show up, you may experience flu-like symptoms, abdominal pain, vomiting, fatigue, and dark urine. Although there are drugs and medications that are developed to help treat Hepatitis C, not everyone can easily recover from the disease.

How To Protect Yourself From These Bloodborne Pathogens

Aside from understanding the common types of bloodborne pathogens, you also need to learn how to protect yourself against them. Just take note of the following tips below:

• Make A Habit Of Washing Your Hands

Handwashing is considered the single most effective way of preventing any type of infection or viral disease caused by bloodborne pathogens. So, if you want to be fully protected, you should make a habit of washing your hands before and after handling contaminated materials or attending to clients or patients. When you wash your hands, use an anti-microbial soap and clean water. If you can’t find a bar of soap to wash your hands with, having a hand sanitizer with you can be a good alternative.

• Wear The Proper PPE

One of the best ways to protect yourself against bloodborne pathogens is to use PPE or personal protective equipment. Wearing PPE can make all the difference in preventing exposure to bloodborne pathogens.

Wearing gloves every time you are going to encounter blood or bodily fluids is your first line of defense in preventing you from contracting diseases or illnesses caused by bloodborne pathogens and other viruses. Gloves should not only be worn when you are handling contaminated materials but also when cleaning them or disposing of them.

However, not just any pair of gloves will work. You need exam-grade nitrile gloves to fully protect your hands. These offer a barrier against infections and protect not only you but also the patient. While it is not unusual to use only one pair of gloves, the CDC recommends that two pairs be worn. This way, even when the outer pair gets dirty, there is still a pair of clean and fresh gloves protecting the hands.

If the situation calls for it, you should also wear masks, face shields, lab coats, and gowns to give your body better protection against bloodborne pathogens when working around contaminated materials. If you work as a cleaning or maintenance staff in a hospital or clinic, it’s important to wear a face mask and gloves while cleaning and disposing of hazardous wastes.

Final Thoughts

Having all the information about bloodborne pathogens can make a critical difference in whether you are protected or endangered by these contagious viruses. It’s also recommended that you get bloodborne pathogens training which will teach you how to protect yourself, prevent exposure, and how to handle contaminated materials properly. Without proper training and information, you will never know what to protect yourself with and what should you do in the event of exposure.

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