Recent Outbreaks of Bloodborne Pathogens: What You Need to Know

Recent Outbreaks of Bloodborne Pathogens: What You Need to Know

  There are currently at least 10,000 diseases that affect people around the world. Some of these are minor and easy to treat while others can be life threatening. Thankfully, medical professionals around the world are constantly developing new and effective treatments for these diseases. However, when it comes to infectious diseases, prevention is always better than a cure. This is why controlling bloodborne pathogens and the diseases that they cause is essential. So what are these diseases and how are they affecting the world today? Read on to learn more about bloodborne pathogens and recent outbreaks of blood-related diseases around the world.

What Are Bloodborne Pathogens?

All diseases are caused by infectious microorganisms that are transmitted from one person to another. However, the way that these microorganisms transmit varies. Some, for example, are airborne and spread when people breath in infected air. Bloodborne pathogens are microorganisms that can travel in the bloodstream causing infections. These transmit when infected blood and other bodily fluids mix. This can happen:

  • If you are exposed to infected sharps or needles
  • Your blood or tissue comes into contact with infected blood or tissue (for example via an open wound)
  • During sexual intercourse
  • During childbirth
  • During blood transfusions (although this is rare)
  • If you are bitten by an infected insect, human, or animal

So what sort of illnesses can bloodborne pathogens cause? Let's take a closer look.

Common Bloodborne Diseases Around the World

Bloodborne pathogens can cause a range of illnesses and many of these are serious. In some cases, they can be life-threatening, while in others they may lead to chronic conditions that require long-term treatment. These include:

  • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
  • Hepatitis B virus and hepatitis C virus
  • Malaria
  • Ebola virus
  • Lassa fever
  • Marburg disease
  • Avian influenza (also known as bird flu)

In some parts of the world, these bloodborne diseases are fairly under control. In fact, some of them have been eradicated completely. However, elsewhere there have been serious outbreaks recently. Let's take a look at some of the most recent global outbreaks of bloodborne diseases.

Outbreaks of Ebola in Africa

Ebola virus disease (or EVD) is a type of bloodborne disease that affects the way in which your blood clots. It is also known in some places as haemorrhagic fever virus because it can cause internal bleeding. It can also cause inflammation and tissue damage throughout the body. Ebola is often fatal, with 1 in 2 infected people dying from the disease. However, in October last year the first treatment for it was approved by the FDA. The earlier treatment and supportive treatment comes available, the better the chances of survival. This year, outbreaks of ebola have been announced in several countries across Africa, including:

  • The Democratice Republic of the Congo
  • Equatorial Guinea
  • The Ivory Coast

While ebola has affects areas of African countries ever since the 1970s, these outbreaks are the largest since 2016. The World Health Organization (WHO) is also particularly concerned about where ebola is taking hold. For example, one affected area is Abidjan on the Ivory Coast. This metropolis is home to more than four million people, so getting an outbreak under control here as soon as possible is essential. Without this, the outbreak could affect the lives of millions of people. Fortunately, we now have a much better understanding of how to treat and prevent ebola. As a result, medical professional in the affected area stand a much better chance at controlling the outbreak than ever before. WHO is also currently providing as many ebola vaccinations as possible to people living in the area.

Outbreaks of Marburg Disease in Guinea

Marburg disease is extremely similar to EVD and also causes haemorrhagic fever, leading to internal bleeding. The disease originates from infected fruit bats and is believed to have spread to humans through animal bites. Depending on the strain of the virus and the treatment available, the fatality rate for Marburg disease can be as high as 88%. Medical professionals recommend treating symptoms and rehydration to support recovery. There is currently no licensed treatment that effectively fights the virus itself. The first recorded cases of Marburg disease were reported in Germany and Serbia in the 1960s. Since then it has also affected countries in Africa including:

  • Angola
  • South Africa
  • Kenya
  • Uganda
  • The Democratic Republic of Congo

The last major outbreak occurred in 2005 in Angola and took the lives of 252 people in a year. However, in August this year, Guinea reported the first ever case of Marburg disease in West Africa. Experts discovered the disease during post-hostmous testing of a man found to have the disease. Currently no more cases have been reported. However, experts are going their best to contact 146 people who may have had contact with the man who died. Medical professionals have also employed ebola-containment protocols to control the disease as much as possible.

Bird Flu Around the World in 2021

Avian influenza (or bird flu) made global headlines in 2014. This is a type of flu that affects birds around the world and is transmitted by bloodborne pathogens. In rare cases, this has spread from birds to humans through direct contact with saliva and faeces of infected birds. Infected individuals may experience:

  • Flu-like symptoms (such as fevers, coughs, and sore throats)
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Severe respiratory illnesses
  • Diarrhea and vomiting
  • Neurological symptoms (such as seizures)

Two strains of the infection - Asian lineage H7N9 and H5N1 - are responsible for the most serious infection rates, illnesses, and mortalities around the world. Fortunately, these strains of bird flu in humans are fairly under control. Since 2003, 239 cases of the H5N1 infection have been reported with a mortality rate of more than 50%. However, in August this year no new cases were reported. So although the number of infected birds is currently rising (particularly in Europe) our ability to contain the infection seems to be improving.

How Are Bloodborne Diseases Affecting the Response to COVID-19?

Of course, diseases caused by bloodborne pathogens are not the only illnesses that affect people around the world. In fact, they only make up a fraction of the medical emergencies that people have to deal with on a daily basis. That said, they can have an effect on our ability to treat other illnesses around the world. A lot of countries in Africa, for example, have not been hit by the COVID-19 pandemic as hard as Europe and the US. However, their limited access to vaccinations and demands from bloodborne diseases has left a lot of people in this part of the world vulnerable. Outbreaks of serious bloodborne diseases has slowed down the rate of vaccination role outs in countries across Africa. This is because medical professionals cannot control both crises at the same time. As a result, a lot of people living in countries across Africa are still extremely vulnerable to COVID-19.

Understanding Bloodborne Disease Transmission and How to Prevent It

As we've already mentioned, some treatments are available for bloodborne diseases, such as ebola. However, understanding how these diseases spread means it is actually possible to prevent their transmission. This helps to control outbreaks and relieves pressure on medical emergency services around the world. This is where bloodborne pathogen training courses can help. These courses help people understand simple practical things that you can do to prevent the spread of bloodborne diseases. This includes learning about:

  • How to handle and dispose of sharps safely
  • The appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) to use when dealing with bloodborne pathogens
  • How safely clean up blood spills
  • Creating a risk assessment and plan for the prevention of bloodborne pathogen transmission
  • How to report bloodborne pathogen risks and incidents
  • What to do if someone is potentially exposed to bloodborne pathogens

This is essential workplace training for anyone working on the medical frontline or in childcare around the world. It is also a good idea for anyone working with needles, for example in a tattoo or piercing parlour. However, this sort of training of available for anyone who might want it. So if you are planning international travel or just want to learn more, don't hesitate to book a course today!

Learn More Today

As you can see, bloodborne pathogens are very much alive and kicking around the world. Fortunately, our understanding of how to treat and (importantly) prevent the spread of them is better than ever before. This means that, with the right training and resources, medical professionals stand a much better chance of controlling outbreaks of bloodborne pathogens.

For 2022 Guidelines, please visit our Bloodborne Pathogens training page.