A large segment of the population in the United States have at least a fairly basic understanding of the potential dangers that can arise from exposure to fresh blood. Blood can harbor what medically are known as dangerous pathogens. These primarily are viruses and bacteria that can cause serious and even fatal diseases in individuals that comes into contact with contaminated blood.
The most common types of bloodborne pathogens that can be present in blood in the U.S.A. at this juncture in time are:
- Hepatitis B
- Hepatitis C
Keep in mind that this list is not exhaustive. The possibility exists that blood can be tainted with other dangerous pathogens as well.
Many people presume that if dried blood is present, it is not a risk or a biohazard. In fact, dried blood is classified as a biohazard. Dried blood is classified as a biohazard for a number of reasons.
What is a Biohazard?
Before diving into a discussion of why dried blood is a biohazard, a basic understanding of what is a biohazard is necessary. In simple terms, a biohazard is defined as a dangerous or potentially harmful biological substance, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Generally speaking, the CDC placed biohazards into four basic categories:
Common Pathogens and Dried Blood
Perhaps the primary reason a good many people initially conclude that dried blood is not a biohazard is based on the survival of common pathogens once blood dries. Three of the more common types of bloodborne pathogens will not survive in dried blood. These are HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C.
With that said, if MRSA is found in blood, that bacteria can survive the blood drying process. Indeed, MRSA can survive on a variety of surfaces.
The reality is that there are other less common bloodborne pathogens that might be capable of surviving for at least a short period of time after blood dries. In addition, viruses and bacteria are quite capable of mutating. For example, there have been instances when a bloodborne pathogen mutated and became capable of airborne transmission. Because of these possibilities, utmost care must be taken when it comes to blood and other bodily fluids, even when they transition into a dried state.
In summary, for these reasons, dried blood is classified as a biohazard. As a result, the same safety protocols, the same universal precautions, are to be followed when it comes to fresh or dried blood.
Dried Blood and Proper Personal Protective Equipment
The CDC has delineated the type of personal protective equipment that should be utilized when it comes to contact with blood, fresh or dried. This includes personal protective equipment, also referred to as PPE, when it comes to cleaning up fresh or dried blood. This equipment includes:
- Mask or respirator
- Goggles or face mask
- Smock, apron, or uniform
Dried Blood Cleanup
If you take it upon yourself to undertake dried blood cleanup, you need to use the protective gear set forth a moment ago. You also need to make certain that you cordon off the area in which the blood is present to protect other people from possible exposure to biohazardous material.
Some people well-versed in dealing with blood cleanup provide a rule of thumb for determining when engaging a professional blood cleanup specialist is recommended. These individuals suggest that you should consider hiring a professional if the amount of blood, whether fresh or dried, extends over an area larger than a dinner plate.
The proper cleanup of blood, bodily fluids, or other biological material, is a four phase process in order to ensure that full remediation and restoration occurs. These steps are:
- Initial cleanup
- Restoration (to a livable or usable condition)
There are situations in which the amount of blood and bodily fluids at a scene are so significant that professional biohazard remediation truly is a must. Examples of these types of situations include:
- Certain types of accidents
Dried blood is also likely to be found at the scene of what technically is known as an unattended death. An unattended death is one in which a person dies for some reason but his or her remains are not discovered for what can be an extended period of time. A body might not be discovered following an unattended death for days, weeks, or even months. Because of the nature of the human decomposition process, the presence of highly dangerous biological pathogens is a very real possibility. This type of situation calls out for professional biohazard remediation.