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What Are Bloodborne Pathogens?

Bloodborne diseases are ailments caused by bacteria and viruses. These diseases are transmitted and carried in the bloodstream, including hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Other examples include the Ebola virus and Lassa fever.Bloodborne Pathogens

Bloodborne pathogens are transmitted through infected blood and blood products used on the patient. These pathogens can be transmitted through some material like a sharp object, blood transfusion, and transmission from mother to child. These pathogens are present in fluids like amniotic fluid, cerebrospinal fluid, semen, and vaginal secretions.

Common bloodborne diseases

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a common bloodborne infection caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). This disease does not show symptoms in some people, while others suffer from tiredness, abdominal pain, lack of appetite, queasiness, vomiting, and joint ache. A chronic hepatitis B disease can result in cirrhosis and liver cancer if not properly managed. Vaccination is the method for preventing this disease.


The symptoms start from fatigue to stomach pain, loss of appetite, and vomiting. Jaundice is experienced as the disease grows, which also darkens the urine. Symptoms can take 1 to 9 months before they become noticeable on an individual. For example, stomach pain and loss in appetite are common within the first 3 months but can start at 2 weeks and become severe 6 to 9 months after infection.

Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C results from the hepatitis C virus (HCV). This disease is common through injection and blood transfusion or blood products. Patients suffering from hepatitis C are asymptomatic. However, the case can further lead to liver failure or cancer disease. There is no current cure for hepatitis C, but some medications are given to improve the immune system and liver function.


The symptoms are not noticeable when the disease is still young but may cause jaundice, colored urine, clay-colored stools, or flu-like signs such as tiredness, abdominal discomfort, lack of appetite, or queasiness. Even after the disease is resolved, there are cases that 75 to 85 percent remain infected while 70 percent develop liver disease.


HIV is a bloodborne pathogen that causes AIDS. This disease is transmitted through sexual activity, unsterilized needles, and the transfusion of contaminated blood. HIV/AIDS affects the immune system after a short time leading to infection and cancers such as Kaposi sarcoma. Treatment has not been found for AIDS.


HIV patients are asymptomatic in the beginning. However, they may experience some mild issues months after contracting the virus. These symptoms may include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Enlarged lymph nodes

After a longer time, the immune system becomes weak in function leading to more complications. Some may experience swollen glands or large lymph that last up to 4 months. Other symptoms begin to manifest years before the onset of AIDS. These symptoms include:

  • Lack of energy
  • Weight loss
  • Occasional fevers and sweats
  • Constant or frequent yeast infections (oral or vaginal)
  • Constant skin rashes or flaky skin
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease in women not responsive to treatment
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Frequent and severe herpes infections leading to mouth, genital, or anal sores, or a painful nerve disease called shingles.


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