As the world continues to fight and be cautious about the COVID-19 virus, there are equally threatening pathogens that people shouldn’t forget about—bloodborne pathogens.
In fact, bloodborne pathogens have never been more relevant than today as governments promote extensive vaccination programs. After all, bloodborne pathogens are contagious microorganisms— viruses or bacteria— that are carried in the blood and other bodily fluids and are commonly transmitted via infected needles and syringes.
That said, there are lots of confusion about bloodborne pathogens. To help clarify the dangers and how to avoid them, we dispel some of the few common misconceptions and myths about bloodborne pathogens.
- Bloodborne Pathogens Are Only Transmitted By Blood
Due to its name, most people think that bloodborne pathogens are transmitted only by blood. Thus, they mistakenly believe that they’re already safe from bloodborne pathogens if there’s no blood visibly present.
Bloodborne pathogens via blood infection are the most common and high-risk method of transmission. However, there are other ways you can get infected with bloodborne pathogens.
Bodily fluids can be as infectious as visible blood. Some bodily fluids that have a high infection rate include:
- Vaginal discharge
- Amniotic fluid
- Fluids surrounding your joints (synovial fluids) and organs such as the spine and brain (cerebrospinal fluid), heart (pericardial fluid), pelvic and abdominal cavity (peritoneal fluid), and lungs (pleural fluid)
- The amniotic fluid that protects the unborn baby
Other methods of contracting bloodborne pathogens include:
- Respiratory droplet transmission (for instance, when a patient coughs up bloody sputum)
- Vector-borne transmission (when infected animals like a mosquito bite you)
- Dried Blood Is No Longer Contagious
Most people think that only fresh blood is infectious. However, there’s evidence that even dried blood can still be infectious and dangerous.
This is because some bloodborne pathogens can live outside the body for days and even weeks and remain infectious.
For instance, WebMD revealed that hepatitis C virus can live for 4 days in dried blood, while hepatitis B can survive up to a week.
- Being Vaccinated Ensures Protection
In general, there is no vaccination available for almost all bloodborne pathogens, except for the virus that causes hepatitis.
People are urged to keep their hepatitis vaccination up to date. And while it does help in preventing infection from the pathogen, it doesn’t offer a 100% protection guarantee if you’re directly exposed to the pathogen that causes it.
So, even if you’ve received all standard hepatitis vaccines, but recently been exposed to bloodborne pathogens, you should seek medical attention immediately after being exposed to blood or other potentially infectious materials (OPIM).
- If You’re Wearing Personal Protective Equipment, You Don’t Have To Wash After Cleaning Up Blood Or Bodily Fluids
Most people think that PPEs such as gloves and masks can help protect them from contamination. Either because of laziness or exhaustion after work, some health workers may skip washing up.
However, gloves and other PPEs often contain tiny pinholes which are not visible to the human eyes. And these can easily transfer bloodborne pathogens onto your skin.
Thus, you need to thoroughly scrub your hands or take a shower once you have removed your PPEs or other clothing. Alcohol or antiseptic towelettes are an acceptable alternative if running water is not available.
However, you should wash your hands with running water and soap as soon as possible after cleaning up bodily fluids. After all, cleanliness can help keep diseases at bay.
- Healthcare Professionals Are the Only Ones Who Need Bloodborne Pathogen Training
There’s a good reason why healthcare professionals are the main ones required for bloodborne pathogen training. After all, their work exposes them to various infectious diseases.
However, they are not the only ones that should undergo training and obtain a bloodborne pathogens certification. Anyone who’s expected to face regular contact or exposure to blood or bodily fluids as a result of doing their job should train and become certified in handling bloodborne pathogens.
These people include, but are not limited to:
- Nurses, doctors, medical students, and other direct patient health providers
- In-home healthcare service provider and hospice worker
- Dentists, dental assistants, and hygienists
- Employees at long-term care facilities, nursing homes, and rehab centers
- Paramedics, firemen, EMTs, and other first-responders
- Medical equipment technicians
- Clinical laboratory workers and researchers
- Blood and tissue bank workers and volunteers
- Laundry services that handle hospital facility linen
- Housekeeping and janitorial staff
- Law enforcement and correctional facility staff
- Body, tattoo, and piercing artists
- Morticians and funeral home workers
- Teachers and school nurses
- People required to provide first aid or handle OPIM over the course of their regular duties
There’s no denying that bloodborne pathogens are dangerous. Exposure to even a minuscule amount of infected blood or bodily fluid can cause infection. Most people don’t know much about bloodborne pathogens and only have speculations.
We hope that this article has shed some light on important key facts about bloodborne pathogens and provided you with a better understanding of the infectious disease they spread.