At any given time, there are 1.2 million people in the United States and 350 million people around the world who have a positive case of Hepatitis B. Out of that number, approximately 3,000 people in the U.S. and 600,000 people worldwide die each year from liver disease as a result of Hepatitis B.
Many people don’t even know that they are suffering from the virus. When they finally start to show symptoms, it is too late because of the damage that the virus causes to the liver.
Continue reading to learn everything you need to know about bloodborne pathogens like Hepatitis B and how dangerous they can be. We’ll also discuss how bloodborne pathogens training might help you as an employer.
What Is Hepatitis B Virus (HBV)?
Hepatitis B is a completely preventable liver disease that will either cause acute or chronic infection. It is the inflammation of the liver. Acute Hepatitis B infection is a short-term illness that is similar to the flu. Infants and children are not likely to show signs of an infection. Most cases of Acute Hepatitis B are curable. The symptoms consist of:
- Loss of appetite
- Muscle, joint, and stomach pain
More severe symptoms might show fluid accumulation and confusion. Further down the line, when the virus is not treated properly, the Hepatitis infection can be deadly.
Chronic Hepatitis B, on the other hand, is not so easy to handle. This type of Hepatitis B is a long-term illness caused by lingering Hepatitis in the body. Most cases of Chronic Hepatitis B won’t have symptoms, but will eventually lead to liver damage. In some cases, it might lead to liver cancer. In the most serious cases, it may lead to death.
When symptoms do appear, it’s years after the initial contraction of the infection. The advanced stages of liver disease may have symptoms like:
- Scarring in liver
- Loss of appetite
The damage to the liver may be occurring without even knowing that the HBV entered the body.
The Hepatitis B Vaccine
Hepatitis B is a completely preventable disease for those who have gotten the vaccine to protect against it. The vaccine can be given in two, three, or four injections. Anyone under the age of 19 should be vaccinated. For infants at risk, their vaccine will come in two doses; once at birth and again at six months old.
Adults, who have not yet received the vaccine, should get it if they are/have:
- Health care workers
- Public safety workers
- In a correctional facility
- Traveling to an area where Hep B is more common
- Having an STI panel performed
- Sharing needles, syringes, and other drug paraphernalia
- Sexually active with Hep B positive people
- Been sexually assaulted
- Chronic illnesses such as liver disease, HIV, Hepatitis C, or diabetes
This is not an exhaustive list, and not everyone is the same. Talk to your doctor if you think you should get the vaccine.
What Makes the Bloodborne Pathogens So Dangerous?
Bloodborne pathogens, like Hepatitis B, spread through exposure to an infected individual’s blood and other bodily fluids. They are pathogenic microorganisms that directly and indirectly cause infection in relatively healthy people.
Hepatitis B is a silent, insidious killer. It may take up to 30 years for symptoms to appear, and by that time, the liver damage has already happened. This liver damage is irreversible. Once the damage is done, the infected individual will struggle with the disease for the rest of their lives.
Up to 40% of Hepatitis B and C infections can be attributed to sharp exposure in the workplace. The number of people contracting the virus has already increased due to the opioid epidemic and unsafe drug use. With the increase in vaccinations for Covid-19 and the improper disposal of sharps, the problem continues to grow.
In some less fortunate areas, incinerators are being used to destroy medical waste, including sharps. However, these incinerators are expelling toxic fumes, and they don’t get hot enough to break down the sharps. This is causing sharps to get sent into public dumps rather than being disposed of properly.
Other illnesses that are transferable via bodily fluids include Hepatitis B and C, HIV/AIDs, Ebola, and other hemorrhagic illnesses.
How Are Bloodborne Pathogens Contracted?
Bloodborne pathogens are transmittable through blood and other bodily fluids. This can happen through bites, mucous membranes, cuts, and puncture wounds. There are four means of transmission:
- Direct contact
- Indirect contact
- Respiratory droplet transmission
- Vector-borne transmission
Direct contact involves an infected individual’s bodily fluid entering an uninfected individual. This can include infected blood, saliva, or semen entering microscopic cuts or in the eyes or nose. This is the most dangerous by of transmission.
Indirect contact occurs when an uninfected individual touches a surface that came in contact with an infected individual’s bodily fluids without proper sanitation taking place in between the encounters.
Respiratory droplet transmission occurs when a Hepatitis B positive person coughs or sneezes and an uninfected person breathes in the respiratory droplets that are expelled.
Vector-borne transmission happens when a vessel (vector) holds the virus until it is able to puncture the skin. Mosquitos are a type of vector, and when it is carrying infected blood, it transfers the infection to an uninfected person.
The following actions can transmit Hepatitis B (HBV):
- Birth (if mom is positive)
- Sharing personal effects (toothbrushes and razors)
- Contact with open sores or blood
- Sexual encounters with a Hep B positive person
- Sharing needles or drugs with a Hep B positive person
- Getting stuck with sharps or other sharp objects
If you think that you may have been exposed to a bloodborne pathogen, you should see your doctor as soon as possible. If you would like to learn more about bloodborne pathogens, our training can answer all of your questions.
Bloodborne Pathogens Training
So, what is bloodborne pathogens training? Training for a bloodborne pathogen certificate might include learning about bloodborne pathogens and how to prevent exposures. It may also cover what you should do in the event of possible exposure to the most common bloodborne pathogens: Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, and HIV.
To comply with OSHA bloodborne pathogen regulations, workplaces should implement regulations and safety measures to teach employees how to avoid future incidents. With the completion of bloodborne pathogen training, you will receive a certificate. This certificate communicates to your employer (or employees) that you are taking the training seriously.
The following people should go through bloodborne pathogen training:
- Anyone in the medical field (doctors, nurses, phlebotomists)
- Anyone working in a medical facility (janitors, laboratory technicians, hospice workers, medical equipment repair techs)
- Anyone who comes into contact with bodily fluids regularly (EMS personnel, tattoo artists, firefighters, law enforcement)
The training for bloodborne pathogens covers:
- Protective procedures
- Health information
- Information for all at-risk individuals
The training is available right here at bloodbornepathogens.com.
Preventing Bloodborne Pathogen Exposure
How do you learn all of this? Undergoing bloodborne pathogens training and passing a bloodborne pathogen test will allow you to understand exposure and how to react during and after a possible exposure takes place.
Using universal precautions is the best way to prevent the spreading of bloodborne pathogens. When working with infected people in the workplace, you need to take precautions to keep yourself safe and keep pathogens from spreading.
Wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), labeling hazardous materials, and disinfecting thoroughly used areas can do a lot to protect yourself from exposure. Offering vaccines for Hepatitis B can help you to give other people the tools they need to protect themselves.
Implementing engineering controls, such as authorizing sharp disposal, can help to make sure that sharps are being taken care of properly (reducing the number of infections caused by accidental sticks).
Implementing Bloodborne Pathogen Control Plan
OSHA requires having a solid plan in place for controlling possible bloodborne pathogens exposure. With the proper plan, you will be able to protect your employee’s health and wellbeing. You will know what to do when exposure to bloodborne pathogens happens.
Having a bloodborne pathogen exposure is costly to a business. This includes post-exposure treatment and therapy for your employees. It will also cost your company a decrease in productivity. When employees have to take off work for treatment or recovery, there is going to be work that won’t get done until you do it yourself or find someone else to do so.