Bloodborne pathogens are microorganisms such as viruses and bacteria, which may cause diseases if transmitted via exposure to blood or other body fluids. Examples include malaria, syphilis, HIV and Hepatitis. However, it is Hepatitis B (HBV), Hepatitis C (HCV), and Human Immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that pose the greatest threat. Specific information about these viruses is included in this training.

Modes of Transmission

Bloodborne pathogens such as HIV, HBV, and HCV can be transmitted through contact with human blood and other potentially infectious materials, (referred to as OPIM) such as:

  • Unfixed human tissue or organs
  • HIV containing cells or tissue

And the following human body fluids

  • Urine
  • Semen
  • Vaginal secretions
  • Peritoneal fluid
  • Cerebrospinal fluid
  • Synovial fluid
  • Amniotic fluid
  • Saliva
  • And any bodily fluid visibly contaminated with blood

HBV, HCV, and HIV are most commonly transmitted through:

  • sexual contact
  • sharing needles
  • from mothers to babies at birth/before birth
  • contact with broken or damaged skin or mucous membranes and infected body fluids
  • an accidental puncture from contaminated needles, broken glass or other sharp objects

Portals of Entry

It is important to know the ways in which exposure and transmission can occur in your particular situation, whether it involves handling biological material in a laboratory, providing first aid as a first responder, suturing a laceration, cleaning up blood in a hallway, or some other exposure that you might face.

Transmission of these agents in the workplace can occur through the following routes:

  • parenteral exposure- the pathogen is introduced directly into the body through a break in the skin (existing cuts, sores, abrasions, dermatitis, sunburn or blisters), by needlestick, or through a cut with a contaminated object.
  • Mucous membrane exposure-exposure through a mucous membrane in the eye, nose or mouth from a splash or spray if contaminated material.

Bloodborne pathogens are not, however, transmitted through casual contact, such as shaking hands or sharing office space and equipment!


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