Fact Sheet

Bloodborne Pathogens

What They Are

Bloodborne pathogens are disease causing microorganisms present in human blood and certain other body fluids. Bloodborne diseases are transmitted when pathogens from infectious body fluids enter the bloodstream through breaks in the skin or through mucous membranes. Bloodborne pathogens are not transmitted by casual contact.

Some infections that can be transmitted through contact with blood and body fluids include: HIV, hepatitis A, B, C, staph and strep infections, Gastroenteritis-salmonella, and shigella, Pneumonia, Syphilis, TB, malaria, measles, chicken pox, herpes, urinary tract infections, and blood infections. The greatest risks are from HIV and Hepatitis B and C.


HIV infection has been reported following occupational exposures to HIV-infected blood through needlesticks or cuts; splashes in the eyes, nose, or mouth; and skin contact. Most often, however, infection occurs from needlestick injury or cuts.


Hepatitis C virus infection is the most common chronic bloodborne infection in the United States, affecting approximately 4 million people. Hepatitis C infection is caused most commonly by needlestick injuries. HCV infection often occurs with no symptoms, but chronic infection develops in 75 percent to 85 percent of patients, with 70 percent developing active liver disease, according to the Center for Disease Control in 1998.


Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver that can lead to liver damage and/or death. The CDC states that HBV can survive for at least one week in dried blood on environmental surfaces or on contaminated needles and instruments. Hepatitis is much more transmissible than HIV. The CDC estimates 800 health-care workers became infected with hepatitis B virus in 1995, a 95 percent decrease in new infections from the 1983 figures. The decrease is attributed to better preventive measures and better education of those whose jobs expose them to blood.

Needlestick injuries account for up to 80 percent of accidental exposures to blood. Other exposures are from incorrectly handled glass capillary tubes that break, used disposable razors contaminated with blood and I.V. connector systems that use needles to connect I.V. setups.


Bloodborne Pathogen and Needlestick Prevention, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA)

Diseases & Conditions, Centers for Disease Control

Bloodborne Pathogen Checklist

Protect Staff From Bloodborne Pathogen Contamination