Occupational exposure to blood-borne pathogens has long been known to be a risk for healthcare workers. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) estimates that as many as 5.6 million healthcare workers are at risk of being exposed to these (and other) pathogens. So, what is the latest on the three most common blood-borne pathogens? What are they and what is the best way to prevent exposure
While there are many blood-borne pathogens that exist in the healthcare workplace, there are three that are the most common and perhaps the most troubling—human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV).
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) warns of two potential means of exposure to these pathogens:
While most healthcare leaders might be able to readily name the various ways in which their organizations have committed to keeping patients safe, they may be less able to articulate how their staff is being protected in that same culture. On the surface, that may sound like bad news. However, the good news is that a robust and intentional safety culture tends to protect both patients and staff.
Universal and standard precautions are the bulwarks in the prevention of the spread of these pathogens. Universal precautions treat all human blood and many other bodily fluids as potentially infectious. Standard precautions include the use of handwashing as well as the use of protective or barrier equipment such as gloves, gowns and masks.
In addition to these precautions, OSHA requires the following elements as part of any plan to prevent transmission:
HealthStream can help your organization meet these requirements, improve your safety culture, and minimize risks to patients and employees. Investigate providing a blood-borne pathogen class.
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