When blood or bodily fluids are contaminated, a bloodborne disease occurs. Infectious bloodborne diseases are spread and made deadly by bacteria, some non-living infectious agents, and parasites present in the blood. Because many healthcare workers draw blood or administer medications with syringes, they are more likely to contract bloodborne diseases. Infected blood may come into contact with the mucous membranes of a healthcare worker. We will examine the three most common bloodborne diseases that can pose a significant threat to healthcare practitioners and the precautions we can take to decrease our risk of acquiring these diseases.
Bloodborne Diseases are the Most Common
Bloodborne pathogens are numerous, but HIV, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C are the most lethal and prevalent.
Blood is the main route by which HIV is transmitted. HIV can spread through unsterile needles, contaminated blood transfusions, and unprotected sex. While collecting blood samples, healthcare workers are more likely to be infected with HIV by needle stick injuries.
The Hepatitis B Virus
The Hepatitis B virus (HBV) causes hepatitis B infection. Symptoms of the infection can include jaundice, abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. Cirrhosis (liver scarring) and liver cancer can also be caused by chronic Hepatitis B. Only vaccination is effective in preventing Hepatitis B.
The Hepatitis C Virus
Getting infected with the Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is the main cause of Hepatitis C. The majority of Hepatitis C patients have no symptoms. However, chronic Hepatitis C can cause liver damage and eventually lead to liver cancer. Injecting drug users and those receiving blood transfusions with unscreened products are at the highest risk of contracting Hepatitis C. Hepatitis C cannot be cured. Still, drug treatment can improve liver function and the immune system’s response.
What Causes Bloodborne Diseases?
Bloodborne pathogens are responsible for transmitting diseases that affect or affect the blood and other body fluids. In Dr. Doka’s definition, pathogens are microorganisms that can cause disease by inhabiting the blood or other fluids of the body.
She noted that viruses and bacteria are most commonly the cause of bloodborne diseases.
How Are Bloodborne Diseases Spread?
Pathogens in the following areas are responsible for the transmission of bloodborne diseases:
- Hemoglobin (Blood).
- Platelets or fresh frozen plasma (note: due to screening, this is rare) are blood products.
- Secretions in the vaginal canal.
- The fluid, which surrounds the fetus.
- A pleural fluid fills the chest cavity.
- Fluid in the joints.
- Hypodermic needle sharing.
- In healthcare settings, needles or sharps can cause punctures.
Dr. Doka noted that while the most prevalent bloodborne diseases can be transmitted through contact with blood or bodily fluids, some viruses, bacteria, and parasites that may live in the blood and be transmitted through bodily fluids can also be transmitted through other modes:
- Tick bites transmit Babesia.
- Touching soft tissue wounds or surfaces that are contaminated can spread MRSA.
- Mosquito bites transmit both Zika and malaria.
What are the Risks of Contracting a Bloodborne Disease?
The following groups of people are more likely to contract bloodborne pathogens than the general population:
- In intravenous drug users, because contaminated needles can be shared.
- People who engage in high-risk sexual behavior, such as sex workers or those involved with multiple partners.
- Bloodborne diseases can be contracted by babies born to infected mothers in utero or during birth.
- People with compromised immune systems, whether they are very young or very old, or who are taking immunosuppressive medications.
- Anyone who has come into contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person through an open wound, a cut, or mucous membrane.
- Those who are working in healthcare can get stuck with needles or sharps that have been contaminated.
Preventing Bloodborne Diseases in Healthcare Workers
Because of the occupational exposure health care workers experience, they are infected with approximately 26 different strains of viruses. A healthcare worker’s mucous membranes, needlestick wounds, and a few other sharp injuries can easily let blood into the body. Generally, auto-disable syringes are recommended for workers and employers to minimize this risk. It has been widely acknowledged that auto-disable syringes are the safest syringes for use during mass vaccination programs by the World Health Organization (WHO) and its partners, most notably the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), International Federation of Red Cross, and Red Crescent Societies (IFRCS), and Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). A single-use of AD syringes eliminates any additional risk of infection or illness.
Medriva has established itself as a well-known name in the healthcare industry and is the largest manufacturers of AD syringes for the the developing world. MEDRIVA syringes, commonly sold under the brand name MEDVAC, have a self-locking mechanism, are sterile, and are non-toxic. Syringes include a break-off mechanism to ensure the safety of workers. Auto-disable mechanisms break the plunger automatically after use, eliminating the possibility of reuse and preventing the transmission of pathogens between patients and healthcare workers.
The View from our Perspective
The safety of employees is the main priority of healthcare organizations. Bloodborne diseases can be easily prevented by following a few safety measures, such as using antidote syringes and personal protective equipment (PPE) like gloves, gowns, and masks.