Monday, January 26, 2009

What are Bloodborne Pathogens?

If you are searching the internet for "bloodborne pathogens" you may already know and understand what they are. However, many people may not.

A bloodborne pathogen is a disease producing bacteria or microorganism. OSHA defines a bloodborne pathogen as a pathogenic microorganism present in human blood that can lead to disease. There are many disease carrying pathogenic microorganisms that are covered by OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogen Standard (29 CFR 1910.1030); however, the most common and those of primary concern are Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), Hepatitis B (HBV), and Hepatitis C (HCV).

I will give a brief description of each.

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV):

  • HIV is the virus that leads to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). A person can carry HIV for many years and not have symptoms until it turns into full-blown AIDS.
  • AIDS attacks the person’s immune system, which makes it difficult for the body to fight off disease.
  • Scientists and medical authorities agree that HIV does not survive well outside the body. Drying of HIV-infected human blood or other body fluids reduces the risk of environmental transmission to essentially zero.
  • HIV is found in very low quantities in saliva and tears from some AIDS patients. HIV has not been found in the sweat of HIV-infected persons. Contact with saliva, tears, or sweat has never been shown to result in the transmission of HIV.

Hepatitis B Virus (HBV):

  • 1 to 1 ¼ million Americans are chronically infected
  • Symptoms include: jaundice, fatigue, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, intermittent nausea, vomiting
  • May lead to chronic liver disease, liver cancer, and death
  • Vaccination available since 1982
  • HBV can survive for at least one week in
    dried blood

Hepatitis C Virus (HCV):

  • An estimated 3.9 million Americans have been infected with HCV of whom 2.7 million are chronically infected.
  • Persons chronically infected with HCV may not be aware of it because they are not clinically ill. Sometimes it can take two decades before symptoms are recognized.
  • Chronic liver disease occurs in approximately 70 percent of infected persons.
  • There are some drugs that have been licensed for treatment of HCV; however, they are only effective in 10-40 percent of persons.
  • 8,000-10,000 deaths occur each year as a result of the chronic liver disease.
  • There are some drugs that have been licensed for treatment of HCV; however, they are only effective in 10-40 percent of persons.
For more information about OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogens we recommend you visit the following link: Bloodborne Pathogens Safety Training