What Are Bloodborne Pathogens?
Pathogens are disease-causing microorganisms. Bloodborne pathogens are viruses or bacteria present in human blood and body fluids which can infect and cause disease in humans. The two most notable of these are Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), the virus that causes AIDS, and the Hepatitis B virus (HBV).
How Do Bloodborne Pathogens Spread in the Workplace?
The most common ways bloodborne pathogens spread are through sexual transmission or IV drug use. However, any contact with infected blood or body fluids carries the risk of potential infection.
With the correct information, irrational fears about workplace exposure to HIV and HBV can be prevented. On the other hand, treating HIV to lightly may lead you to ignore appropriate protective measures.
How to Protect Yourself
It is important to understand what the hazards of bloodborne pathogens are, and what preventative measures you can take to protect yourself from exposure. The three main areas of protection include Attitude, Personal Protective Equipment and Housekeeping.
Your attitude is a vital part of protecting yourself. The right attitude means taking Universal Precautions. This means that you treat all human blood and body fluids as infectious.
Personal Protective Equipment
Personal Protective Equipment includes clothing and equipment worn by an individual during activities which may result in exposure to bloodborne pathogens. Personal protective equipment always starts with gloves but may also include gowns, face shields, eye protection and pocket masks.
- Latex gloves and gowns-gloves and gowns protect your skin and hands from coming into contact with blood.
- Face Shield and eye protection-these items prevent blood from entering the mucous membranes through the eyes, nose or mouth.
- Pocket Mask-a pocket mask refers to any one of many types of devices used while performing CPR or mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
Housekeeping refers to methods for cleaning and decontaminating infected surfaces and the disposal of blood and body fluids. All decontamination must include the use of an appropriate disinfecting solution, such as one part bleach to ten parts water.
Work Practices to Prevent Infection
If your assignments require you to perform CPR, give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, administer first aid, or clean up after an accident, protective measures need to be taken to prevent an exposure to infectious materials.
Protect yourself by following these steps:
- Treat all blood and body fluid spills as if they were infectious.
- When providing first aid or CPR, protect yourself first, then treat the victim second.
- Wear appropriate personal protective equipment: gloves, goggles, etc. as required by the accident.
- When performing CPR, always use a pocket mask equipped with a one way valve to prevent contact with potentially infectious body fluids.
- Contain spills immediately, then clean up and disinfect the area.
- Clean up contaminated broken glass with tongs, forceps, or a brush and dust pan. Never use your hands, even if protected with gloves.
- Handle all trash as if it contains sharps and/or infectious items.
- When removing contaminated clothing, carefully turn inside out as it is removed to contain contaminants. Dispose in appropriately labeled bags or containers.
- After removing personal protective equipment, wash hands or other affected body parts with soap and warm water. Vigorously scrub all areas to remove all potentially infectious contamination.
- Place all potentially infectious materials and contaminated items in closeable containers or bags. The bags must be color coded (usually red)and/or marked with a biohazard label. Check with your supervisor for proper procedures.
- Don't eat or smoke in your work area. Germs get on your hands, food and smoking materials and go right into your mouth.
- Refer to WPI's Exposure Control Plan for additional information. It is available at:
Campus Police- 35 Dean Street
Human Resources- Stratton Hall
Plant Services- 27 Hackfield Road
Protect Yourself First. Treat Victim Second.
What To Do If You Are Exposed
Despite your best efforts, there is a possibility you may be exposed to blood or body fluids during an emergency response. An exposure incident is defined as a specific eye, mouth, nose or skin contact with potentially infectious materials. All reports will be treated by WPI in the strictest confidence.
If you have an exposure, follow these steps:
- Flush the area on your body that was exposed with warm water, then wash with soap and water. Vigorously scrub all areas. It is the abrasive action of scrubbing that removes contaminates from the skin.
- If you have an open wound, squeeze gently to make it bleed, then wash with soap and water.
- Notify your supervisor who will initiate WPI's Exposure Incident procedures from the Exposure Control Plan.
- Seek emergency medical treatment following an exposure incident.
- You will be counseled by a physician regarding the risk of HIV or HBV infection and any other follow-up treatment needed.
- Following the post-exposure evaluation, the physician will provide a written opinion to WPI. WPI will provide a copy of the written opinion to you within 15 days of the evaluation.
- There is a safe and effective vaccine to prevent the HBV infection. The Bloodborne Pathogens Standard required that organizations with individuals at risk must offer the HBV vaccine free of charge. Those individuals who choose not to accept the vaccine will be asked to sign a statement indicating their decision. However, if in the future the person decides to get the vaccine, and is still at risk, the person may get the vaccine free of charge.
The vaccine is a series of three injections, which will be administered at the WPI Health Services Infirmary, located in Stoddard C.
- There is not yet available a vaccine for HIV.