Blood-borne viruses

What you need to know about blood borne viruses in the workplace

What are blood-borne viruses and who is most at risk?

Blood-borne viruses (BBVs) are mainly found in blood or bodily fluids.

The main BBVs of concern are:

  • Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
  • Hepatitis B (HBV)
  • Hepatitis C (HCV)

Those who come into contact with bodily fluids from other humans are at risk from BBVs.

This is particularly true if their work involves sharp or abrasive implements that may break the skin (needle-stick injuries).

Workers that may often come into contact with used needles, or sharp objects, include:

  • health and social care workers
  • recreation, parks, or grounds maintenance workers
  • staff who conduct bodily searches
  • staff who search through personal effects (security staff)
  • workers involved in building clearance, refurbishment and renovation

The level of risk will depend on:

  • the frequency and amount of contact they have with bodily fluids
  • the type of fluid or material they come into contact with
  • the age of the contaminated materials
  • the activity the person does with the infected material
  • the nature of the infection contained in the material

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is the virus which can cause Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).

It can be transmitted through:

  • unprotected sexual contact
  • sharing injecting drug equipment
  • breast milk from mother to baby

There is also risk from:

  • needle-stick injuries
  • blood transfusions received in resource-poor countries

Unless contaminated with blood, minimal risk of BBV infection is carried by:

  • urine
  • saliva
  • sweat
  • tears
  • sputum
  • vomit
  • faeces

Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver, BBVs can cause this.

The 2 most common BBCVs are hepatitis B (HBV) and hepatitis C (HCV).

HBV is mainly transmitted through:

  • blood
  • semen
  • vaginal fluid
  • breast milk

There is an effective vaccination against hepatitis B.

HCV is mainly transmitted through

  • blood
  • sexual contact(low risk of transmission)

There is no vaccine against hepatitis C and treatments are not effective.

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) record the number of workplace blood or other high-risk body fluid exposure incidents.

You can read about these in the Eye of the Needle report (external site).

Contact information

Please use our contact form for further information about BBVs