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Transmitting Bloodborne Pathogens

Image of blood collection.
Phlebotomists are required to wear disposable gloves when collecting blood samples.

Fluids that Spread Bloodborne Pathogens

The transmission of bloodborne pathogens from one person to another occurs through the transfer of infected body fluids.

Common body fluids which can transmit pathogens include:

  • blood
  • cerebral spinal fluid
  • semen
  • vaginal secretions

Semen and vaginal secretions can transmit bloodborne pathogens, but only during sexual contact.

Wearing disposable gloves can help protect you from accidental exposure to bloodborne pathogens.

Fluids that Do Not Spread Bloodborne Pathogens

Some body fluids have no documented risk of transmitting pathogens, including:

  • sweat
  • saliva
  • urine
  • feces

Although the risk of contracting a pathogen from these bodily fluids might be low, you may not always be able to tell which fluids you are handling, or whether injury has mixed them with blood.

For example, a severe abdominal injury could cause blood to be present in urine or feces. Therefore, it is best to protect yourself from ALL bodily fluids.

How Bloodborne Pathogens are Transmitted

Non-occupational bloodborne pathogens are most commonly transmitted through:

  • sexual contact; or
  • sharing hypodermic needles.

Occupational bloodborne pathogens are most commonly transmitted through:

  • puncture wounds from a sharp or contaminated object, such as broken glass; or
  • from a splash of blood to the mucous membranes of the eyes, nose, or mouth.

Protect Yourself from All Bodily Fluids

It's important to remember the Hepatitis B virus can remain infectious outside of the body for up to 7 days. For this reason, it is essential that cleanup and decontamination of contaminated objects and surfaces be performed as soon as possible. This will reduce the risk of indirect contact resulting in a bloodborne exposure incident.

Understanding how bloodborne pathogens are transmitted will help reduce your risk of exposure and infection.

Casual social contact, such as shaking hands, hugging, or sharing a telephone or tool, does not transmit bloodborne pathogens.

Direct contact with blood or other potentially infectious bodily fluid can cause an exposure incident. Indirect contact with a contaminated object, such as a countertop, bedding, or clothing, can also cause an exposure incident.


Jasmine is a daycare worker taking care of children between the ages of 6 months and 12 years. Kevin is a 3 year old child at the daycare center and has been complaining of a stomachache. Suddenly Kevin begins to vomit unexpectedly. After Kevin's parents have been called to pick him up, Jasmine is asked to clean up the mess.

Should Jasmine be concerned about bloodborne pathogens?


Although vomit is not documented as a risk for transmitting bloodborne pathogens, it is often impossible to determine if there is blood mixed in with the vomit. Even a very small amount of blood has the potential to transmit disease. You should always prevent contact with bodily fluids, regardless of whether blood is visible in the fluids.


Before beginning this quiz, we highly recommend you review the module material. This quiz is designed to allow you to self-check your comprehension of the module content, but only focuses on key concepts and ideas.

Read each question carefully. Select the best answer, even if more than one answer seems possible. When done, click on the "Check Your Answers" button. If you do not answer all the questions, you will receive an error message.

Good luck!

1. Trent is an employee for a local ambulance company. As part of his job he is routinely exposed to blood and other bodily fluids. Which of the following could potentially transmit a bloodborne pathogen to Trent?

2. Common body fluids which can transmit pathogens include _______.

3. Some body fluids have NO documented risk of transmitting pathogens, including _______.

4. Bloodborne pathogens are commonly transmitted through _______.

5. It is essential that cleanup and decontamination of contaminated objects and surfaces be performed as soon as possible.

Have a great day!

Important! You will receive an "error" message unless all questions are answered.