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Modes of Transmission


Bloodborne pathogens such as HBV and HIV can be transmitted through contact with infected human blood and other potentially infectious body fluids such as:

  • Semen
  • Vaginal secretions
  • Cerebrospinal fluid
  • Synovial fluid
  • Pleural fluid
  • Peritoneal fluid
  • Amniotic fluid
  • Saliva (in dental procedures), and
  • Any body fluid that is visibly contaminated with blood.

It is important to know the ways exposure and transmission are most likely to occur in your particular situation, be it providing first aid to a student in the classroom, handling blood samples in the laboratory, or cleaning up blood from a hallway.

HBV and HIV are most commonly transmitted through:

  • Sexual Contact
  • Sharing of hypodermic needles
  • From mothers to their babies at/before birth
  • Accidental puncture from contaminated needles, broken glass, or other sharps
  • Contact between broken or damaged skin and infected body fluids
  • Contact between mucous membranes and infected body fluids
Accidental puncture from contaminated needles and other sharps can result in transmission of bloodborne pathogens.

In most work or laboratory situations, transmission is most likely to occur because of accidental puncture from contaminated needles, broken glass, or other sharps; contact between broken or damaged skin and infected body fluids; or contact between mucous membranes and infected body fluids. For example, if someone infected with HBV cut their finger on a piece of glass, and then you cut yourself on the now infected piece of glass, it is possible that you could contract the disease. Anytime there is blood-to-blood contact with infected blood or body fluids, there is a slight potential for transmission.

Unbroken skin forms an impervious barrier against bloodborne pathogens. However, infected blood can enter your system through:

  • Open sores
  • Cuts
  • Abrasions
  • Acne
  • Any sort of damaged or broken skin such as sunburn or blisters

Bloodborne pathogens may also be transmitted through the mucous membranes of the

  • Eyes
  • Nose
  • Mouth

For example, a splash of contaminated blood to your eye, nose, or mouth could result in transmission.


<< Section 3: Bloodborne Diseases Section 5: PPE, Work Practices and Engineering Controls >>