What are bloodborne pathogens?

Bloodborne pathogens are disease agents such as blood-dwelling viruses. An illness caused by a bloodborne pathogen may be known as a bloodborne illness or disease. Because many bloodborne pathogens are extremely virulent and difficult to treat, medical professionals typically use a variety of measures to reduce the risk of transmitting such pathogens. Training to prevent bloodborne diseases is offered at many levels of the medical community and for individuals who may be at risk of exposure, such as teachers, who may be required to provide first aid care to injured students.

In addition to being present in human blood, some bloodborne pathogens can be found in other body fluids; AIDS, for example, is present in the blood, but it can also be transmitted through sexual activity because it can be present in semen. Other examples of bloodborne pathogens include hepatitis B and C, malaria, syphilis, and HIV. These pathogens can be detected with blood tests that look for antibodies developed in response to exposure to these pathogens.

To transmit a bloodborne pathogen, blood-to-blood contact is usually required. For example, nurses and phlebotomists are at high risk of exposure due to needlestick injuries. Such pathogens can also sometimes be transmitted through open sores or through the sharing of needles between people who use intravenous drugs. Although many people associate sexual activity with the transmission of diseases such as hepatitis C, many bloodborne pathogens can only be transmitted when blood is present; Some sexual activities may not be advisable, while others can be made reasonably safe with barrier protection.

In hospitals, strict protocols are followed to avoid unnecessary exposure to bloodborne pathogens, especially when these disease agents are found in other body fluids. For example, all needles are used only once and then disposed of in specialized containers. Surgical equipment is carefully sterilized for safety, and hospital staff take care to avoid any blood-to-blood contact with patients. If someone is exposed to something like a needlestick injury, prophylactic medications may be prescribed.

Some biologists specialize in the study of bloodborne pathogens, looking at how these pathogens evolve and possible techniques that could be used for treatment. Some disease agents like the virus that causes HIV are virulent and difficult to treat despite the best efforts of the scientific community, while diseases like malaria and syphilis, once scourges, can now be treated with drugs modern.

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