What Is A Bloodborne Pathogen?

One of the biggest risks at a clean up scene is contact with bloodborne pathogens, which may be contained in any spill of blood or bodily fluid. There are several bloodborne pathogens that can remain viable and contagious for many days in dried form. Proper removal of contaminants and disinfection of the area is essential. Hiring an experienced, well-trained company to clean up a tragedy scene will protect the safety of the occupants or employees.

The following is the definition of a bloodborne pathogen:

A bloodborne pathogen or disease is one that can be spread by contact and contamination by blood. The most commonly encountered examples are HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C and viral hemorrhagic fevers. Diseases that are not usually transmitted directly by blood contact, but rather by insect or other vector, are more usefully classified as vector-borne disease, even though the causative agent can be found in blood. Vector-borne diseases include West Nile virus and malaria.

Many blood-borne diseases can also be transmitted by other means, including high risk sexual behavior.  Because it is difficult to determine what pathogens any given blood sample contains, and because many bloodborne diseases are lethal, the standard medical practice considers all blood (and any body fluid) as potentially infectious. Blood and Body Fluid precautions are a type of infection control practice that seeks to minimize this sort of disease transmission. Blood poses the greatest threat to health in a laboratory or clinical setting due to needle disposal techniques.

Blood for blood transfusion is screened for many bloodborne diseases. Additionally, a technique that uses a combination of riboflavin and UV light to inhibit the replication of these pathogens by altering their nucleic acids can be used to treat blood components prior to their transfusion, and can reduce the risk of disease transmission.

The most prevalent forms of bloodborne pathogens in the United States are:

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B attacks the liver. It can cause fatal liver conditions like cirrhosis, liver cancer and liver failure. The CDC estimates that 3,000 people die each year from Hepatitis B related illness in the United States. Hepatitis B is commonly transmitted among drug users through shared needles and can be transmitted through any blood contact that involves a puncture of the skin or mucosal contact with other infectious body fluids. A Hepatitis B vaccine became available in 1982 and vaccinated individuals have virtually no chance of contracting the disease.

Hepatitis C

The CDC lists Hepatitis C as the most common chronic bloodborne infection in the United States. Hepatitis C is transmitted most efficiently through direct blood contact involving a skin puncture. Transmission through sex or contact with other bodily fluids is possible but uncommon. As with Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C can result in chronic, fatal liver diseases. The CDC estimates that four times as many people die from Hepatitis C related illnesses than from Hepatitis B. No Hepatitis C vaccine is available.


Human immunodeficiency virus causes AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome). AIDS weakens the immune system making it difficult for infected persons to resist other illnesses. AIDS is a late stage of the HIV viral infection and HIV medications can stave off the onset of AIDS for years or even decades. HIV is transmitted through unprotected sexual activity but can also be contracted through direct blood contact though skin punctures or to mucus membranes. The CDC recorded over 14,000 HIV related deaths in 2007. No HIV vaccine is available.

Viral Hemorrhagic Fever

Viral Hemorrhagic Fever (VHF) refers to a group of illnesses that affect multiple organ systems. Bleeding, or hemorrhaging can be a major symptom of these diseases. The CDC has a Special Pathogens Branch that deals with the most sever VHFs. Insects and rodents are known hosts of VHFs but the hosts of some VHFs are unknown. Ebola and Marburg are two of the most well-known and dangerous VHFs. CDC records of Ebola and Marburg outbreaks indicate that the viruses most commonly occur in a few African countries and are often fatal. VHFs can be transmitted through blood and other bodily fluids but the fluids do not have to enter the skin through a puncture to cause infection.

Treatment for these viruses is limited and there are no vaccines available.

BioSpecialists can be your best defense against contamination by bloodborne pathogens,  we are the New England Professional for cleanup, disinfection and removal of blood  and blood contaminants.



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