Blood-Borne Viruses (BBVs)

HIV Postive Blood Sample

Blood Borne Viruses (BBVs) are viruses that may be carried by some people's blood and which may cause severe disease in certain people and few or no symptoms in others. Some of the main BBVs are:

  • Hepatitis B, C and D viruses which cause the liver disease hepatitis.
  • Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) which causes AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) which affects the immune system of the body.

The viruses can also be found in breast milk. Other body fluids or materials such as urine, faeces, saliva, sweat and vomit carry a minimal risk of BBVs unless they are contaminated with blood.

Occupations that may be at risk include those working in the refuse and recycling industry, laundry workers, laboratory workers, vehicle recovery and repair workers, correctional officers, emergency responders, morticians, hair dressers, beauticians, dentists, needle exchange service workers, plumbers, local authority workers, tattooists and healthcare personnel. The risk of being infected by a BBV whilst carrying out first aid duties is small but appropriate precautions should be followed.

The following precautions can help to reduce the risk of infection:

  • Avoid all contact with blood or body fluids where possible. Cover breaks in exposed skin by means of waterproof dressings and/or gloves.
  • Treat all blood or blood products as if it were infectious.
  • Use engineering controls e.g. needle safe systems.
  • Use safe work practices  e.g. have documented safe practices for handling and disposing of contaminated sharps, handling specimens, handling contaminated laundry, items and surfaces etc.
  • Wear appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to avoid contamination e.g. gloves, goggles or visor, disposable clothing protection such as aprons.
  • Make hepatitis B vaccinations available to those at risk.
  • Ensure emergency procedures and post-exposure plans are in place for those who experience an exposure incident e.g. needlestick injury.
  • Follow good basic hygiene practices such as hand washing before and after glove use and avoid hand to mouth or eye contact.