Pathogens are microorganisms that cause disease in humans. These can be as simple as the common cold or as dangerous and virulent as the Ebola virus. Because pathogens have many modes of transmission, identifying how they spread is a key component in curing and preventing transmission.
Blood borne pathogens are diseases that spread through contact with and live in the blood. Some examples of blood borne pathogens include but are not limited to:
- Ebola and other hemorrhagic fevers
Let’s take a look at what makes these diseases different, how to treat them and how to prevent their spread.
What are bloodborne pathogens?
These particular diseases live in blood but can cause a dramatic range of symptoms affecting every organ in the body. For instance, the hepatitis viruses cause liver inflammation, fevers, jaundice, weakness and in some cases can be fatal. They can be chronic or acute as well — some are lifelong diseases that flare up, and some are short term and go away completely once cured.
How are blood borne pathogens spread?
Direct contact with infected blood is a primary mode of transmission. This means anyone who shares needles with other people are at a significant risk for contracting a blood borne pathogen, the most common in these cases being hepatitis C. Most blood borne pathogens can also be spread through contact with feces and through risky sexual behavior as well. Transmission through unclean tattoo parlors is also a possibility, though health departments across the world have strict guidelines for professional tattoo parlors that make infection far less likely.
How long can blood borne pathogens live outside the body?
Most blood borne pathogens can live for up to a week outside the body. In fact, dried blood can still transmit hepatitis B and C; a very small amount of contact is all that’s necessary to contract these viruses, even if the source isn’t fresh.
How do I avoid blood borne pathogens?
Ensure that you never use the same intravenous needle as someone else. If you’re getting a tattoo, get it from a credible tattoo parlor and make sure they are using gloves, sterile needles and best safety practices to avoid contamination. Do not take sexual risks, always use protection and be selective of your partners. If you come across blood — wet or dry — ensure proper cleaning protocol, including using something like bleach to destroy any pathogens that might be present.
Be safe around blood
Whether you come into contact with blood as an occupational hazard or through sheer happenstance, treat it with extreme caution. Blood borne diseases are often significantly more dangerous than those transmitted through the air, and in the case of HIV or hepatitis C, can be chronic, lifelong conditions. Treat all blood as thought it could be hazardous and avoid touching it or interacting with it unless you first treat it with bleach or clinically formulated hydrogen peroxide.