A bloodborne pathogen is a disease or virus that can be transmitted from one person to another by coming in contact with contaminated blood. Examples of illnesses that can be caused by bloodborne pathogens include Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV. Entry sites for these pathogens include your eyes, nose, mouth and any broken skin. Fortunately, most exposures do not result in infection.
Hepatitis is a virus that infects the liver and can lead to cirrhosis, liver failure and liver cancer. There are multiple types of hepatitis. The most common types are hepatitis A, B and C.
Hepatitis A – not caused by bloodborne pathogens. Hepatitis A is usually transmitted due to lack of hand washing which results in the contamination of food. There is a vaccine to prevent the disease.
Hepatitis B – caused by contact with contaminated blood or sexual contact. Most adults who get Hepatitis B are ill for a short time and then get better, however some become chronically infected. Hepatitis B can live in dried blood on surfaces for up to one week. All children in Texas schools are required to receive the Hepatitis B vaccine series. It is recommended by the CDC that you get vaccinated if your job puts you at risk of coming into contact with blood or bodily fluids. Staff that should get vaccinated include: coaches, persons working with severe/profound and/or medically fragile students, custodians, speech therapists, nurses, and athletic trainers.
Hepatitis C – caused by contact with contaminated blood or sexual contact. Some adults who get Hepatitis C are sick for only a short time, but most that are infected develop chronic Hepatitis C. There is not a vaccine to protect against the virus.
HIV is the virus that leads to AIDS and weakens a person’s ability to fight infections and illnesses. HIV is transmitted through coming in contact with contaminated blood and/or sexual contact. Some people with HIV may not show symptoms for many years until the disease progresses to where they are unable to fight infections. There is not a vaccine to protect against HIV.
Transmission of Bloodborne Pathogens
Bloodborne pathogens are transmitted by coming in contact with contaminated blood and through bodily fluids that contain visible blood. Bodily fluids such as urine, feces, vomit, saliva, sweat and tears are not carriers of bloodborne pathogens unless they contain visible blood.
In the school setting you can be exposed to bloodborne pathogens if contaminated blood comes in contact with your mucous membranes, eyes or broken skin. It can also occur if a contaminated object punctures your skin. You can not contract a bloodborne pathogen through casual contact such as hugging or a handshake.
Exposure may occur in the school setting when:
- Cleaning up blood and/or bodily fluids
- Rendering first aid
- Breaking up fights
- Assisting with toileting
To prevent exposing yourself to bloodborne pathogens always follow Universal Precautions. Using Universal Precautions means to treat all blood as if it is contaminated. If you anticipate coming in contact with blood or bodily fluids make sure you are wearing gloves. When you are finished remove the gloves and wash your hands. If you have to administer first aid to someone with a cut, scrape or bloody nose for example, have the person administer their own first aid if they are able until you can put on gloves.
Hand washing is the best way to prevent the spread of infection.
Steps to Proper Hand Washing:
- Turn on the water and wet your hands with warm water.
- Apply soap and rub your hands together to form a lathery foam for 30 seconds.
- Make sure to wash the front and back of your hands, as well as between your fingers and under your nails.
- Rinse your hands well with warm water.
- Dry your hands with a clean paper towel.
If blood gets on your skin or you are bitten by a student immediately wash the area with soap and water. If you are bitten by a student both parties should seek medical attention. If your mucous membranes or eyes become exposed to blood flush them with generous amounts of water and then seek medical attention.
Always remember to:
- Put a barrier between you and the potential hazard
- Disinfect contaminated surfaces and objects
- Use a barrier mask if performing CPR
- Never pick up broken sharp objects with your hands
For more information on Universal Precautions visit