11: Blood Borne Infectious Diseases and Personal Protection|
By - Pauline W. Fallis,
The technique of the electrologist was quite different before the emergence
of HIV and the Hepatitis viruses. As HIV became wide spread as a Blood
borne pathogen, we in Infection Control started looking at systems to
control the spread and protect the health care workers. It soon became
evident that health care workers were not the only ones that could be
affected. The workers in the allied health services were also at risk. To
understand about the precautions that are necessary for workers to employ
in order to be safe, we must first understand the diseases that
precipitated their use.
THE HUMAN IMMUNODEFICIENCY VIRUS or HIV is the virus that invades and
destroys specific cells within the body that control our immunity. The
Tcells as they are called, are like the generals that marshal the other
cells (the privates) to war against the invading microorganisms. HIV
invades and kills those cells over an extended period of time. As more and
more Tcells are destroyed the body's defence mechanism breaks down and
infectious diseases that one would not normally be concerned about, start
to cause serious illness. These diseases are called opportunist infections.
Many of the microorganisms live normally in a symbionic relationship within
the body, but when our defences are down they can cause disease. As you
see, HIV does not in itself cause the victim to die, but by destroying the
body's defences the person cannot fight off the infectious diseases.
As time goes on, there are more and more medications such as AZT that can
Are you at risk? Most people are not at risk. Casual contact with others
will not produce disease. If you do not come in contact with non intact
skin, blood, mucous membranes, open lesions, or body fluids, you are not at
Well look at what you do! You insert a needle into the root of a hair, to
destroy the hair. In doing so, on occasion blood may be present. At those
times you need to protect yourself and your other clients.
How do you know if someone has HIV? You don't. You have to assume that
every client is potentially infectious.
HEPATITIS is the inflammation of the liver. This can be caused by many
things. The liver is a vital organ of the body and without it we die. The
liver has many functions including the production of substances that help
us metabolize food. It also destroys and eliminates old red blood cells.
When you have Hepatitis your skin and eyes may become jaundiced (yellow),
you may have grey coloured stools, you may have a fever, abdominal pain,
nausea, vomiting and become weak.
Viral Hepatitis is hepatitis caused by a virus. There are many viruses that
cause hepatitis and they are differentiated by the letters of the alphabet.
Hepatitis A, for instance, is eliminated in the stool and transmitted by
the fecal-oral route. We are not concerned with Hepatitis A here, but we
are concerned with the viruses causing hepatitis that are transmitted by
blood and other body fluids. The ones we are most concerned about are the
Hepatitis B virus (HBV), and the Hepatitis C virus (HCV). Unlike HIV, HBV
and HCV that do not attack the immune system but attack a vital organ in
the body. These viruses are more easily transmitted than HIV and can cause
life threatening illness.
Are you at risk? Just like HIV, you are at risk if you are exposed to
blood, semen, or other body fluids. Health care workers are routinely
offered Hepatitis B vaccine to prevent Hepatitis B. If you feel that you
are at risk, consult your family physician. The Hepatitis B vaccine is a
safe effective vaccine. At this time there is no vaccine for Hepatitis C.
WHAT PRECAUTIONS MAY BE USED? Use the precautions outlined as universal
precautions, body substance precautions or standard precautions. When
touching non intact skin, mucous membranes, blood or other body fluids,
wear gloves (any non sterile examination glove).
Avoid touching skin that is not intact, no scrapes, nicks or cuts. If a
client looks jaundiced, ask if they are well and if not ask them if they
have been screened for Hepatitis B and C. Immediately after finishing the
procedure, remove the gloves turning them inside out, discarding them
properly, and then thoroughly wash your hands. Place all instruments in a
covered container with cold water, or cold water with an enzymatic
detergent to facilitate easy removal of blood proteins. (Do not use
germicides to soak your instruments as these will solidify the blood
proteins and make them more difficult to clean). The instruments will then
be ready for cleaning and sterilization. Decontaminate all work surfaces
and discard all disposable equipment and supplies into the appropriate
containers. Place sharps objects such as the needles/probes into a rigid
sharps container and any other items into a plastic garbage bag that is
heavy enough to resist puncturing.
Remember only you can prevent the spread of these infections to yourself or
to your clients. All it takes is a little common sense and a little
INFECTION CONTROL ARTICLES
- PREPARING FOR THE PATIENT/CLIENT
Spring 2001, Volume 8, Number 1
- PREVENTING INFECTION FOR ELECTROLYSIS
Fall 2000, Volume 7, Number 2
Spring 2000, Volume 7, Number 1
- MICROORGANISMS AND INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Summer 1999, Volume 6, Number 2
- BLOOD BORNE INFECTIOUS DISEASES AND PERSONAL PROTECTION
Spring 1999, Volume 6, Number 1
- MICROORGANISMS & INFECTION
Fall 1998, Volume 5, Number 2.
- BIOLOGICAL TESTING OF YOUR STERILIZATION PROCESS
Spring 1998, Volume 5, Number 1
- STEAM STERILIZATION
Fall 1997, Volume 4, Number 2
- CHEMICAL STERILIZATION
Spring 1997, Volume 4, Number1
- DRY HEAT STERILIZATION
Fall 1996, Volume 3, Number 2
Spring 1996, Volume 3, Number 1
- IS YOUR USE OF NEEDLES SAFE IN YOUR PRACTICE?
Fall 1995, Volume 2, Number 2
- PREPARING INSTRUMENTS FOR STERILIZATION
Spring 1995, Volume 2, Number 1
- WHY ARE GLASS BEAD STERILIZERS NOT RECOMMENDED FOR USE IN ELECTROLOGY?
Fall 1994, Volume 1, Number 2
- STERILIZATION: HOW, WHEN, AND WHAT WITH
Spring 1994, Volume 1, Number1