Bloodborne Pathogens

Bloodborne pathogens are microorganisms in human blood that can cause disease. These may be viruses or bacteria, including: hepatitis B (HBV), hepatitis C (HCV), malaria, syphilis, brucellosis and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

Bloodborne pathogens cannot be shared via casual, physical contact or through the air. However, they can be transmitted through infected blood and other bodily fluids. Any time there is blood-to-blood contact with infected blood, there is a slight chance of transmission, as well as when infected bodily fluids come in contact with mucous membranes in the nose, mouth or eyes. Skin provides a barrier to transmission, so open sores, cuts, blisters and abrasions offer an avenue for these pathogens. In an emergency, lifeguards should always use universal precautions to protect against the transmission of bloodborne pathogens. All blood should be treated as if it carries bloodborne pathogens. Barrier devices should be worn, including goggles, gloves and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation masks, which should be disposed of properly after use. If a lifeguard has a cut or open sore, it should be carefully covered with a bandage before protective gear is put on. After accidental exposure, wash the area well with antibacterial soap and running water, being careful not to break the skin. If necessary, flush mouth, nose and eyes for 15 minutes. Clean the pool area, including any equipment, with a 1:10 to 1:100 mixture of household bleach and water.