Thursday, November 15, 2012

Exposure to Blood: What Healthcare Personnel Need to Know



Healthcare personnel are at risk for occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens, including hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Exposures occur through needlesticks or cuts from other sharp instruments contaminated with an infected patient's blood or through contact of the eye, nose, mouth, or skin with a patient's blood. Important factors that influence the overall risk for occupational exposures to bloodborne pathogens include the number of infected individuals in the patient population and the type and number of blood contacts. Most exposures do not result in infection. Following a specific exposure, the risk of infection may vary with factors such as these:
  • The pathogen involved
  • The type of exposure
  • The amount of blood involved in the exposure
  • The amount of virus in the patient's blood at the time of exposure
Your employer should have in place a system for reporting exposures in order to quickly evaluate the risk of infection, inform you about treatments available to help prevent infection, monitor you for side effects of treatments, and determine if infection occurs. This may involve testing your blood and that of the source patient and offering appropriate postexposure treatment.
How can occupational exposures be prevented?
Many needlesticks and other cuts can be prevented by using safer techniques (for example, not recapping needles by hand), disposing of used needles in appropriate sharps disposal containers, and using medical devices with safety features designed to prevent injuries. Using appropriate barriers such as gloves, eye and face protection, or gowns when contact with blood is expected can prevent many exposures to the eyes, nose, mouth, or skin.

We will discuss this very important topic as it relates to healthcare personnel as the CDC has put forth the information.

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