Bloodborne Pathogens

A bloodborne pathogen (BBP) is a type of bacteria or virus that is spread by contact with an infected individual’s blood or other potentially infectious body fluids. Examples of diseases caused by bloodborne pathogens include human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis B virus (HBV), and hepatitis C virus (HCV).

The most common ways a person can be exposed to a bloodborne pathogen include receiving contaminated blood or blood products, sharing needles (includes needles used during tattooing or body piercing), or having unprotected sexual intercourse. In a healthcare or residential setting, exposure may also occur as a result of unsafe injection practices or through contact with contaminated equipment such as blood glucose monitoring devices, podiatry equipment, or any other device that has not been properly cleaned and disinfected.

Estimated burden of bloodborne infections in healthcare facilities in the United States:

  • Between 1998 and 2008, there were 40 outbreaks of HBV or HCV in healthcare settings
    • 33 of these outbreaks occurred in non-hospital healthcare settings (15 in long-term care facilities, 12 in outpatient clinics, and 6 in hemodialysis centers), resulting in 448 persons acquiring HBV or HCV infection. (citation)
  • An additional 11 outbreaks of healthcare-associated HBV or HCV occurred in 10 states between July 2008 and June 2009, resulting in at least 120 persons acquiring HBV or HCV infection. (citation)
    • 9 of these outbreaks occurred in non-hospital healthcare settings.
  • In the last 10 years, there have been at least 15 outbreaks of HBV infection associated with providers failing to follow standard principles of infection control when assisting with blood glucose monitoring. (citation)
  • Transmission of HIV to patients while in healthcare settings is rare. Most exposures do not result in infection.
    • The risk of HIV transmission to a healthcare worker after percutaneous exposure to HIV-infected blood is considerably lower than the risk of HBV transmission after percutaneous exposure to blood that is positive for HBV (0.3% versus approximately 30%). (citation)
    • Between 1981 and 2010, 57 healthcare personnel had documented seroconversion to HIV following occupational exposure. (citation)
  • Bloodborne pathogen transmission events often result in facility closures and large public health notifications of hundreds or thousands of potentially exposed patients.