Bloodborne Pathogens

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 and dangerous germs spread through blood in the hospital are:

  • Hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV). These viruses cause infections and liver damage.
  • HIV (human immunodeficiency virus). This virus causes AIDS.

You can be infected with HBV, HCV, or HIV if you are stuck with a needle or other sharp object that has touched the blood or bodily fluids of a person who has one of these infections. These infections can also spread if infected blood or bloody bodily fluids touch mucous membranes or an open sore or cut. Mucous membranes are the moist parts of your body, such as in your eyes, nose, and mouth. HIV can also spread from one person to another through fluid in your joints or spinal fluid. And it can spread through semen, fluids in the vagina, breast milk, and amniotic fluid (the fluid that surrounds a baby in the womb).

More About Hepatitis

  • Symptoms of hepatitis B and hepatitis C may be mild, and not start until 2 weeks to 6 months after contact with the virus. Sometimes, there are no symptoms.
  • Hepatitis B often gets better on its own and sometimes does not need to be treated. Some people develop a long-term infection that leads to liver damage.
  • Most people who become infected with hepatitis C develop a long-term infection. After many years, they often have liver damage.

HIV

After someone is infected with HIV, the virus stays in the body. It slowly harms or destroys the immune system. Your body’s immune system fights disease and helps you heal. When it is weakened by HIV, you are more likely to get sick from other infections, including ones that would not normally make you sick. Treatment can help people with all of these infections. Hepatitis B can be prevented by a vaccine. There is no vaccine to prevent hepatitis C or HIV.

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