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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.

1. Which of the following could potentially transmit a bloodborne pathogen to an employee?

a. Having blood splashed into the eyes
b. Shaking a patient's hand
c. Using the telephone at the hospital
d. Pushing a wheelchair

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Fluids that Do Not Spread Bloodborne Pathogens

Image of blood collection.
Sweat, saliva, urine, and feces are not a risk.

Some body fluids have no documented risk of transmitting bloodborne pathogens unless they are visibly contaminated with blood. These fluids include:

  • sweat
  • saliva
  • urine
  • feces
  • nasal secretions
  • sputum
  • tears
  • vomitus

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.

2. Which of the following body fluids have no documented risk of transmitting bloodborne pathogens unless they are visibly contaminated with blood?

a. cerebral spinal fluid
b. vaginal secretions
c. semen
d. saliva

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How Bloodborne Pathogens are Transmitted

Image of blood collection.
Sharing needles is dangerous.

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.

3. Which of the following is a common cause of the transmission of occupational bloodborne pathogens?

a. Sharing drinking and eating utensils
b. Sexual contact
c. Blood splashing on eyes, nose, or mouth
d. Sharing hypodermic needles

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Protect Yourself from All Bodily Fluids

Image of blood collection.
Immediate cleanup is necessary.

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.

4. Hepatitis B virus can remain infectious outside the body for up to _____.

a. 15 minutes
b. 1 hour
c. 7 days
d. 30 days

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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.

5. When should you be concerned about contacting an injured person's bodily fluids?

a. If contact is prolonged
b. It depends on the injury
c. Always be concerned
d. When you can see blood

Check your Work

Read the material in each section to find the correct answer to each quiz question. After answering all the questions, click on the "Check Quiz Answers" button to grade your quiz and see your score. You will receive a message if you forgot to answer one of the questions. After clicking the button, the questions you missed will be listed below. You can correct any missed questions and check your answers again.

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