All workplaces can have accidents, but some professions are at high risk of exposure to blood-borne pathogens--tiny organisms in the blood that can spread disease. Workers need to take precautions to prevent exposure to pathogens in blood and body fluid.
The most common blood-borne infection in the U.S. is hepatitis C. The hepatitis C virus (HCV) can cause a contagious disease that can severely damage your liver, but most people don't know they have it until the disease has already damaged the organ.
The most dangerous bloodborne pathogen is the hepatitis B virus (HBV), which causes a life-threatening liver disease. There is a vaccination to prevent hepatitis B
The most well-known disease caused by bloodborne pathogens is AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome), which is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). AIDS destroys the human immune system so that it can't fight disease.
Some occupations have a higher risk of exposure to blood-borne pathogens than others, including all health care workers, housekeeping and janitorial workers, first aid responders, research lab workers and public safety workers such as firefighters and law enforcement personnel.
Employers who anticipate that their employees may be exposed to blood or other potentially infectious materials in the workplace are required to educate workers about bloodborne pathogens and give them access to personal protection equipment such as gloves, masks, safety glasses, body coverings and safe systems to dispose of contaminated material.
Other Blood-borne Diseases
Malaria is a common blood-borne disease affecting people in the tropics. Other blood-borne diseases include the Epstein Barr virus and syphilis.