What are Bloodborne Pathogens?
The main risk to workers who have a needlestick injury is exposure to viruses such as Hepatitis B and C, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
Hepatitis B is an illness that affects the liver. It causes liver inflammation, vomiting, and jaundice. Over the long term, it can cause scarring of the liver and liver cancer. It can eventually lead to death.
Hepatitis C also affects the liver and can cause fever, loss of appetite, fatigue, and jaundice. Over longer periods of time, it causes scar tissue and liver failure. Some people may have no symptoms for many years but can still infect others.
HIV is a virus that attacks the immune system, causing infection. When the body can’t fight infections anymore, the disease becomes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS)
How Are Individuals Exposed to Bloodborne Pathogens?
Exposure through a needle stick or another sharp object is a common way workers in the healthcare industry, emergency responders, and housekeepers are exposed to bloodborne pathogens. Exposure can also occur when an individual is exposed through contact with infectious materials to the nose, eyes, mouth, or broken skin.
Best Practices to Prevent Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens
- For workers in the healthcare industry, using a safer sharps device over a traditional needle can result in a huge reduction in exposure through needle sticks. Also correct handling and disposal of sharps is key to preventing exposure.
- Individuals at risk for being exposed to bloodborne pathogens at their job can get a vaccine to prevent the HBV infection for free.
- When dealing with bodily fluids or any potentially infectious materials, use “universal precautions”. Using universal precautions means you treat all these materials as if they contain bloodborne pathogens. Utilizing safe work practices along with the correct PPE to protect yourself is a large part of using universal precautions
What to do if you accidentally prick yourself?
1. Let the wound bleed.
2. Flush the area with water or wash with soap and water. If the skin has been broken, apply a topical antiseptic solution (e.g., iodine, isopropyl alcohol).
3. Do not apply disinfectants to the eyes, nose, or mouth.
4. Bandage the wound.
5. Seek immediate medical attention at the hospital emergency department.
While you may not work an industry such as healthcare where exposure to bloodborne pathogens is a major concern, you should still be aware of how to prevent exposure. Whether at home or at work, the potential to have to provide first aid or clean up potentially infectious materials in your lifetime is high. Protecting yourself from exposure to bloodborne pathogens needs to be your first concern when dealing with potentially infectious materials.
If you need a Safe Work Practice about Bloodborne Pathogens, please head to our website.