Bloodborne Pathogens

Bloodborne Pathogens

A Bloodborne Pathogens or blood-borne disease is one that can be spread by contamination by blood.

The most common examples are HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C and viral haemorrhagic fevers.

Diseases that are not usually transmitted directly by blood contact, but rather by insect or other vector, are more usefully classified as vector-borne disease, even though the causative agent can be found in blood. Vector-borne diseases include West Nile virus and malaria.

Many blood-borne diseases can also be transmitted by other means.

Since it is difficult to determine what pathogens any given blood contains, and some blood-borne diseases are lethal, standard medical practice regards all blood (and any body fluid) as potentially infective. Blood and Body Fluid precautions are a type of infection control practice that seeks to minimize this sort of disease transmission.

Blood for blood transfusion is screened for many blood-borne diseases.

Needle exchanges are an attempt to reduce the spread of blood-borne diseases in intravenous drug users.

Sharps Waste and Blood-Borne Disease

Sharps waste is a form of medical waste composed of used sharps, which includes any device or object used to pucture or lacerate the skin. Sharps waste is classified as biohazardous waste and must be carefully handled. Common medical materials treated as sharps waste are:

  • Syringes & injection devices
  • Blades
  • Contaminated glass & some plastics
  • Qualifying materials

In addition to syringes and injection devices anything attached to them will also be considered sharps waste. Examples of such attachments could be a syringe, tube, or vacutainer. The entire complex is treated as one unit of sharps waste, even though the attached item cannot puncture or lacerate the skin.

The category of blades can include razors, scalpels, x-acto knives, scissors, or any other medical items used for cutting in the medical setting.

Both needles and blades are always treated and handled with the highest concern as sharps waste. This is regardless of if they have been contaminated with biohazardous material. While glass and plastic are considered sharps waste, their handling methods can vary.

Glass and plastic items, which have been contaminated with a biohazardous material, will be treated with the same concern as needles and blades (even if unbroken). If not contaminated, broken glass and plastic is still a sharp waste but does not pose the same public health risk. Therefore broken glass and plastic that has not been contaminated is not handled as delicately. Some common medical items of this category are test tubes, microscope slides, culture dishes, pipettes, and vials.

It should be noted that individual facilities have detailed definitions of specific materials that qualify. The treatment of a particular material as sharps waste may vary from one facility to the next.

Dangers involved in sharps waste

As a biohazardous material, injuries from sharps waste can pose a large public health concern. By penetrating the skin it is possible for this waste to spread blood-borne pathogens. The spread of these pathogens is directly responsible for the transmission of blood-borne diseases such as Hepatitis B (HBV), Hepatitis C (HCV), and HIV. Health care professionals expose themselves to the risk of transmission of these diseases when handling sharps waste.

The large volume handled by health care professionals on a daily basis increases the chance that an injury may occur. Contraction of disease through such an injury will inhibit health care workers from providing their services. This is a cost incurred by society in the promotion of public health. As trained professionals their services are not easily replaced.

The general public can be at direct risk to injuries from sharps waste as well. If these hazardous materials are not separated from standard waste, individuals can unknowingly come in contact with them. In addition, if sharps waste is not disposed, and removed from the environment, then it can be subject to reuse and misuse (both intentional and unintentional). This is especially applicable in the areas of hypodermic needles and blades. The spread of disease through sharps waste is preventable through proper management and disposal.

Sharps waste management & disposal

Extreme care must be taken in the management and disposal of sharps waste. The main goal in sharps waste management is to safely handle all materials until they can be properly disposed. The final step in the disposal of sharps waste is to dispose of them in an autoclave. A less common approach is to incinerate them, typically only chemotherapy sharps waste is incinerated. Steps must be taken along the way to minimize the risk of injury from this material, while maximizing the amount of sharps material disposed. From the moment sharps waste is produced it is to be handled as little as possible. Health care workers are to minimize their interaction with sharps waste by disposing of it in a sealable container. If the sharps waste incorporates an additional part, such as a syringe, tube, or handle the whole unit is disposed together. Attempts by health care workers to disassemble sharps waste is kept to a minimum. Strict hospital protocols and government regulations ensure that hospital workers handle sharps waste safely and dispose effectively.

The self locking and sealable containers are made of plastic so that the sharps waste can not easily penetrate through the sides. The unit is designed so that the whole container can be disposed of with the other biohazardous waste. Single use sharps containers of various sizes are sold throughout the world. These are colored red and labeled for biohazardous sharps waste. They are now commonplace in clinics and hospitals. Large medical facilities may have their own ‘mini’ autoclave in which these sharps containers are disposed of with other medical wastes. This minimizes the distance the containers have to travel and the number of people to come in contact with the sharps waste. Smaller clinic or offices without such facilities are required by federal regulations to hire the services of a company that specializes in transporting and properly disposing of the hazardous wastes.

Some companies, such as BioSystems, provide sharps management and disposal with special re-usable containers in an effort to reduce landfill waste, increase safety and help hospitals and clinics save money by cutting the cost of expensive one use containers.

Bloodborne Pathogens From Wikipedia

For more detailed Bloodborne Pathogen, Bloodborne Disease & Sharps Waste information see Blood-borne disease on Wikipedia.