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Bloodborne Illnesses and Healthcare Settings: What You Need to Know

Updated: May 16

Bloodborne Illnesses and Healthcare Settings

According to data from the Center for Disease Control, healthcare workers are at an increased risk of infection from a bloodborne pathogen due to accidental needle sticks and direct contact with mucus, blood, semen, and other bodily fluids that may carry a risk of infection. Three of the most commonly transmitted bloodborne pathogens in healthcare settings are the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the hepatitis B virus, and the hepatitis C virus.

Infection rates following accidental exposure to bodily fluids are more likely than most healthcare professionals believe. The average risk of infection by one of these three common pathogens following exposure through a needlestick is about 1.8%. Between the years of 1981 and 2006, the CDC has received 57 documented reports of healthcare workers becoming infected with HIV following a needlestick. Approximately 400 healthcare workers were infected with the hepatitis B virus following accidental exposure in 2001 alone—though this number has declined from the country’s high of 17,000 cases of exposure in 1983, there is still a risk to employees working in the healthcare industry. Thanks to increased education, the implementation of stricter OSHA standards regulating workplace sanitation and biohazardous waste removal, and an increased percentage of healthcare worker vaccinations, this number continues to decline. Still, exposure to bloodborne illnesses is a major area of concern for healthcare officials, as an infection with a bloodborne pathogen can have serious health effects ranging from the onset of liver disease (in the case of hepatitis exposure) to a degradation of the immune system and eventual death stemming from an HIV infection.

Thankfully, there are steps that healthcare workers and facility managers can take to protect themselves and their co-workers from accidental infection of a bloodborne illness. Keeping OSHA-approved sharps containers on-hand and using professional biohazardous waste disposal in Montgomery County from Choice MedWaste can help ensure that your facility is safe and your employees are protected. For more information on bloodborne pathogens and the importance of proper medical waste disposal & training, give our biohazard company in Philadelphia County a call today at 302-766-7575.

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