Symptoms and treatment of blood-borne viruses

Symptoms of HBV infection are fatigue, nausea or vomiting, abdominal pain, and loss of appetite. Jaundice and dark urine occur while the disease progresses. However, half of the people infected with HBV have no symptoms, and a few others show symptoms after two weeks or six months. It has no specific treatment, but there is an effective vaccine for this virus.

HCV Symptoms are often non-specific but may include symptoms that are similar to HBV. Chronic HCV causes liver cirrhosis and liver cancer. A liver transplant is an effective treatment, and there is no vaccine for HCV. However, anti-viral drugs may help to manage HCV.

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HIV infection is a fatal disease, and there is no vaccine or cure for AIDS. Symptoms of HIV vary and occur in three stages.

In the first stage, the person with HIV may or may not show signs of illness, which lasts for many years.

Symptoms in the second stage are fever, weakness, weight loss, swollen lymph nodes, headache, sore throat, diarrhea, and white coating of the tongue. In addition, the second stage may lead to AIDS (Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome).

The third or the final stage completely disables the body from fighting against life-threatening infections and diseases.

Blood-borne pathogens transmission
Infected blood with blood-borne pathogens enters the bloodstream through various transmissions. These transmissions include sharing contaminated needles, sexual contact with an infected partner, or transfer from an infected mother to a child before or during birth.

Other transmissions are direct contact with contaminated, infected blood or objects contaminated with infected blood.

Respiratory droplet transmission occurs through the inhalation of sneeze or cough droplets of an infected person.

Vector-borne transmission like insect bite penetrates a person’s skin.

The pathogens get transmitted through the mouth, eyes, nose, or non-intact skin and enter the bloodstream.

Excretions from the body like feces, urine, vomit, sweat, tears, and saliva are not infectious unless they have visible blood.

In the health care setting, blood-borne viruses have high chances of transmission through injection, infusion, transplantation, unsterile instruments, or accidental injury.

The most common transmission in the health care setting occurs through sharp or needlestick injury. Sharp objects contaminated with blood or body fluids cause lacerations and cause the transmission of blood-borne pathogens.

Exposure-prone procedures transmit hepatitis B to patients. Therefore, recording the hepatitis B status of health care workers by testing for HBsAg, anti-HBc, and anti-HBs is necessary.

The transmission risk of blood-borne viruses from patients to health care workers is higher than from health care workers to patients.

Preventing bloodborne pathogen exposures
Work practice controls include handwashing, disposal of contaminated sharp end materials, and not eating, smoking, or drinking in the workplace. In addition, health care workers must use personal protective equipment like gowns, face shields, gloves, eye protection, and resuscitation devices while working.

Health care providers must use only single-use disposable gloves if blood exposure is likely. In addition, they must discard used gloves and needles immediately into an approved container.

Health care workers must use rigid and penetration-proof containers for quick disposal.

Instruments and equipment used in the health care setting must always be cleaned, disinfected, or sterilized.

Alcohol-based hand rubs promote good hand hygiene and prevent infection transmission.

The person handling patients must cover any cuts or scrapes in the skin.

If there is exposure, the health care provider must wash exposed areas with antiseptic solution and water.

If the blood splashed in or around the mouth or nose, the area should be flushed with water.

If eyes get exposed to infectious blood, they must use clean water and saline or sterile solutions to clean for twenty minutes.

Health care workers must immediately report the incident of exposure to the medical supervisor and seek medical care.

Recording the incident date, time, and situations of the exposure is essential. In addition, documentation of the actions or treatment done after the exposure is necessary.

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