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Danger Lurks in the Blood

April 28, 2024

Bloodborne infections are a significant public health concern worldwide, transmitted through contact with contaminated blood and other body fluids. These infections can be caused by a variety of pathogens, including microorganisms such as bacteria and parasites, as well as non-cellular infectious agents like viruses. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) emphasizes the importance of three specific bloodborne viruses that healthcare professionals should be particularly vigilant about: human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV).


  • Percutaneous Transmission: This occurs when pathogens are introduced into the body through a break in the skin, such as a needle stick injury or when injecting drugs.
  • Mucocutaneous Transmission: Pathogens can enter the body through mucous membranes, such as the eyes, nose, mouth or genitals.
  • Vertical Transmission: Some bloodborne infections can be transmitted from an infected mother to her fetus during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding.
  • Sexual Transmission: Many bloodborne infections can also be transmitted through risky sexual behaviors.
  • Vector-Borne Transmission: Diseases that are not transmitted directly through blood contact but rather through insect vectors or other media are classified as vector-borne diseases. Examples include West Nile virus, Zika fever and malaria.


To effectively prevent the transmission of bloodborne infections, comprehensive strategies must be implemented in healthcare settings, communities and among high-risk populations. These strategies include:


  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Healthcare workers should wear appropriate PPE, such as gloves, masks and eye protection, when handling potentially contaminated fluids.
  • Safe Injection Practices: Ensuring safe injection practices, such as using sterile equipment and disposing of needles properly, is crucial in preventing the spread of bloodborne infections.
  • Vaccination: Vaccination against HBV and HCV is recommended for healthcare workers and high-risk individuals to prevent infection.
  • Screening and Testing: Regular screening for bloodborne infections in high-risk populations, such as injection drug users and individuals with sexually transmitted infections, can help identify and treat infections early.
  • Education and Training: Providing education and training on the prevention, transmission, and management of bloodborne infections to healthcare workers and the general public is essential.