What Type of Germ Is a Bloodborne Pathogen?
Have you heard of a bloodborne pathogen? Are you wondering, "What type of germ is a bloodborne pathogen?" If any of these questions perplex you, you're in the right place for you Bloodborne Pathogens certification. In essence, a bloodborne pathogen is an infectious lifeless or living organism that can be transmuted or found in the blood. However, that's a very basic way to look at it. In this article, we will cover bloodborne pathogens in greater detail. This way, you can ensure that you know how to prevent their transmission, how to protect others against them, and how to avoid them in the first place. Are you ready to take your knowledge of the medical world to the next level? If so, keep reading.
What Are Bloodborne Pathogens?
Bloodborne pathogens, as the name suggests, are agents of infectious disease that can be found and transmitted via human blood. That's as simple as it gets. In essence, the term suggests that these agents are spread through contaminated blood, but also some other bodily fluids. These bodily fluids are, but not limited to:
- Saliva when mixed with blood
- Plural fluid (lung lubricant)
- Synovia fluid (joints)
- Amniotic fluid (fetus environment)
- Vaginal secretions
- Peritoneal fluid (abdominal cavity)
- Cerebrospinal fluid (spinal cord and brain bath)
This can seem unreal at first, but you've probably already heard about common bloodborne pathogens, such as HIV. The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is responsible for acquiring immune syndrome or AIDS. Other bloodborne pathogens include hepatitis C and B, two of which can seriously damage your liver. Besides common viruses, bacteria and protozoa are other known types of microorganisms that can result in disease.
Who Is At Risk?
Bloodborne pathogens should not be disregarded, so you must know the risks of coming into contact with these agents of disease. The use of contaminated needles, which can become infected by bodily fluids or other blood, is a huge factor in bloodborne pathogen transmission. And of course, being a drug user is not the only way to come into contact with needles. Doctors and nurses use needles for various medical issues as well. And even then, they are at risk of contracting bloodborne pathogens if they do not make use of proper handling procedures. The same applies to first responders who might be called to the potentially-contaminated scenes, such as a car accident and they have to provide medical care in a timely fashion. Nonetheless, needle contamination is not the only way to contract a pathogen. The pathogens can enter your body through invisible scrapes or cuts. These cuts can easily happen without your knowledge. With this knowledge, the criticality of careful contact with blood, needles, bodily fluids is imminent and must be mitigated with appropriate precautions.
What Type Of Germ Is A Bloodborne Pathogen?
The most well-known of bloodborne pathogens is the virus. In essence, a virus is a lifeless thing that only comes to life when inside your body. As mentioned earlier, the most famous is probably HIV. While we can get mitigate most viruses, like the ones that result in the flu or cold, we cannot remove HIV entirely. If this virus is left untreated, HIV can destroy a person's ability to fight back against the smallest of infections. Thus, resulting in their death. Another famous bloodborne pathogen is called Hepatitis B, which results in the illness of Hepatitis B. The virus severely damages the liver. In fact, it damages the liver so much, it results in cirrhosis more often than not. This is a condition, in which the liver is scarred entirely and cannot properly function anymore. If that's not enough, the virus can lead to cancer of the liver as well.
Viruses are not the only bloodborne pathogen. Bacteria, or germs, are as well. As a matter of fact, bacteria is a common contaminant of products used in blood transfusions. While infected with a bloodborne virus can result in a serious disorder, becoming contaminated with bloodborne bacteria can result in a rapid and unpleasant end. What type of germ is a bloodborne pathogen? All sorts of bacteria can contaminate the blood. For example:
- Klebsiella is common in people with weakened immune systems
- Escherichia coli is found in contaminated foods
- Anaplasma phagocytophilum is a tick-borne illness
- Staphylococcus aureus is what causes a staph infection
- Staphylococcus epidermidis is what results in endocarditis
As you can see, some of the very common infections are caused by bloodborne pathogens of the bacterial kind.
Parasites and Prions
Bloodborne pathogens are not limited to bacteria or viruses, either. Parasites can be transmitted through the blood as well. The most famous of this category is probably Plasmodium, which results in malaria. Some other parasitic diseases that can be acquired from contaminated blood are:
- Chagas disease
Because of proper screening in America, the transmission of such diseases through contaminated blood transfusions is exceptionally rare but quite common in other parts of the world. To add to the list, there is another kind of pathogen that can be transmitted through the blood. There is no known cure for this one, and it comes in the form of a weird protein. It's referred to as a prion. Have you ever heard of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease or Mad Cow disease? That's caused by a prion. There is no way to currently destroy prions in contaminated blood. However, prion disease is super rare and is not a big of a threat as bacterial contamination.
How to Control Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens
To eliminate or reduce the dangers of occupational exposure to such pathogens, each employer must have an exposure control plan with details on protection measures. The plan must detail how the employer will use work practice and engineering controls, employee training, personal protection equipment, and clothing, vaccinations, medical surveillance, and other OSHA provisions from the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard. The primary means of eliminating employee hazards are engineering controls. These include the use of safe medical equipment, such as shielded needle devices, needleless gear, and plastic capillary tubing.
Preventing Bloodborne Pathogens
Knowing all of this, how can transmission of pathogens be prevented? Let's take a computer infection as an example. Computers get viruses, and the best way to avoid the trouble of computer infections is to avoid contact with other computers in the first place. No computer, no problem. Similarly, the avoidance of blood contact and other bodily fluids is a surefire way to avoid these pathogens. However, this might not always be possible, because (going back to the computer analogy). Now, it's practically impossible to avoid computers today. Nonetheless, protecting yourself is still possible. With a computer, you would install an application that would protect you from potential infections in the future. But for humans, we have something else: We have vaccinations. Vaccinations are like an organic application that protects you from potential infections in the future. An antivirus helps prevent the transmission of harmful computer viruses. It screens for bad and good files and alerts you if find something harmful. You can choose to remove this file so it does not infect your computer. Similarly, we can make use of technologies to screen blood and other bodily fluids for infectious bloodborne pathogens. If they are found, the blood is discarded, meaning the pathogens will not be able to infect a person (blood transfusion example). A computer antivirus can also clean the computer of suspicious files automatically, this happens even if your computer looks free of infectious programs. As a human, you should automatically clean your hands after and before coming in contact with sick people. This should be done even if you wear a gown, mask, and gloves. This is also true if your hands look free of visible "dirt" or "bacteria". Besides an antivirus, your computer has a firewall that blocks harmful agents from entering the computer. And we can make use of many of our firewalls to prevent bloodborne pathogen transmission. We can wear gloves when handling tissues or bodily fluids. We can wear masks to avoid breathing harmful particles if the fluids have been aerosolized. We can wear a condom to prevent infected semen transmission, but also prevent infected vaginal secretions. And just like a computer has backdoors for visuals to sneak into the device, your body might have them too. Scrapes and cuts are a perfect opportunity for bloodborne pathogens to enter your body. Cover them with essential bandaging and appropriate medication to keep your body healthy.
Pathogen Precautions & Exposure Response
The greatest way to defend yourself from BBP is to make use of critical precautions. Also known as universal precautions, they approximate BSL-2 and consist of a subset of procedures. Here they are:
- Treat all OPIM and blood as if they are all infectious
- If you are aware of a dangerous hazard, speak to a medical specialist or lab personnel.
- Clean all surfaces of visible debris before any disinfecting practices with a 1:10 solution of bleach or EPA-registered disinfectant for HBV and HIV.
- Ensure proper hygiene and laboratorian practices. Routine disinfection of contaminated surfaces and handwashing is crucial to mitigating any risk.
- Make use of engineering controls when possible
- Reduce or eliminate the need for using sharp devices
- Treat and segregate waste products with autoclaving, disinfection, etc
- Make use of personal protection equipment for all dangerous tasks
Of course, some of these might seem distant to a layman, but you can come up with your own most plausible alternative to these precautions. You never know when you will come into contact with blood. In the event of potential or definite exposure to a bloodborne pathogen, it's important that you first flush the exposed areas for 15 to 20 minutes. Then, report exposure to necessary authorities, and seek out timely medical assistance. It's important because you will ensure accurate evaluation of your risk to exposure by a medical specialist. In addition, you will increase the likelihood of testing and identifying the source of OPIM or blood. But you will also ensure lead time for treatment administration, which will reduce the chance of high-risk infection. For instance, antiretroviral therapies for infections like HIV are most capable within the first couple of hours of exposure, so it's important to administered vaccine boosters or HBV immunoglobulin during that time. Also, take note of all information that you might have about exposure materials. This will help your course of treatment and medical risk assessment. Without this information, physicians will have to be conservative with their care, and slowly integrate antivirals, which can be critically harmful to your health.
Bloodborne Pathogens Training
Now that you know what type of germ is a bloodborne pathogen, you are well on your way to ensure that you avoid transmission, protect others from risk, and mitigate side-effects of bloodborne pathogens. However, this is only a single article, and even though we covered a lot, we only covered the basics. Knowledge is power, and this rings especially true for the medical world. There's a reason the best doctors, nurses, surgeons, and other medical professionals go through years of training and study. Without the necessary background learning, applied skill training, and social exposure, medical professionals would not be able to do their job as efficiently as they should. Ready to learn more? We're here to help. If you're interested in taking your bloodborne pathogens knowledge and prevention skills to the next level, either for yourself or your employees, get in touch with us and we will happily accommodate your needs.