Each and every year, people across the United States are infected by serious bloodborne pathogens. Some of these viruses and bacteria result in diseases that are treatable. Other infections can result in chronic conditions that can only be managed.
All people need to have a general and authoritative understanding of what can be done to protect against infection by bloodborne pathogens in the first instance. There are a variety of factors that you need to bear in mind in this regard.
What Are Bloodborne Pathogens
The National Institutes of Health define bloodborne pathogens in this manner:
“A pathogen is something that causes disease. Germs that can cause long-lasting infection in human blood and disease in humans are called bloodborne pathogens.”
The most common bloodborne pathogens in the United States are:
- Hepatitis B
- Hepatitis C
How Bloodborne Pathogens Enter the Body
Bloodborne pathogens can enter the human body in a number of different ways. These include:
- Open cuts
- Skin Abrasions
- Mucous membranes in the mouth, eyes, nose
- Accidental punctures
- Sexual activity
There are safety practices that should be employed that lessen the risk of a person being infected by some type of dangerous pathogen. Indeed, by closely following these safety practices, the risks of being infected by a bloodborne pathogen can be reduced to almost nothing.
In the final analysis, the only sure way of preventing infection of a bloodborne pathogen is to avoid all exposure to blood and bodily fluids. For example, condoms can be helpful in significantly reducing the risk of transferring a sexually transmitted disease during sexual activity. However, the only 100 percent certain way of protecting against such a transfer really is to abstain. The risks are also lessened significantly if a person is in a monogamous relationship. However, even such a situation is not wholly foolproof when it comes to fully protect against the transfer of hazardous pathogens.
Understanding Personal Protective Equipment
In the 1990s, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention created a number of protocols to protect against the transfer of bloodborne pathogens. This action by the CDC arose out of the AIDS pandemic that was causing the deaths of thousands of people in the United States and elsewhere around the world.
As part of these protocols, the CDC and other agencies and organizations came up with personal protective equipment, or PPE, standards that are still utilized today. By utilizing these types of personal protective, a person is able to reduce substantially the risk of being infected by bloodborne pathogens.
Standard PPE includes:
- Mask or respirator
- Disposable gloves
- Apron, smock, or uniform
What to Do If Exposed to Blood or Other Bodily Fluids
If you believe that you have been exposed to blood or some other type of bodily fluid, you need to take immediate action. The first step in this remediation process is to thoroughly wash the area of exposure if that location is somewhere on the skin. Use soap and water and wash vigorously for several minutes. You can apply a disinfectant, but washing with soap and water is the key.
If the exposure is via your eyes, you need to flush your eyes with fresh water. Different protocols set forth different timeframes for flushing eyes following exposure to blood or other bodily fluids. Flushing between 10 and 20 minutes is not an unreasonable timeframe.
Once you have taken immediate steps in the aftermath of exposure to blood or other bodily fluids, you need to seek medical attention. Your doctor will undertake an evaluation and determine whether or not you require additional intervention. Your doctor will make a decision as to whether lab testing is necessary, and when that will occur. (You need to keep in mind that the evidence of infection by some sort of bloodborne pathogen is not going to be immediately ascertainable.)
In the aftermath of suspected exposure to blood or other bodily fluids, you need to pay attention to the type of contact you have with other individuals. You need to pay attention in this manner until you receive a clean bill of health from your doctor. The reality is that if you have been infected with some sort of bloodborne pathogen, you put others at risk in situations like those involving sexual activity. This particularly is the case when it comes to one or other types of hepatitis referenced earlier as well as in regard to HIV.