Blood Borne Viruses

What is a virus?
A virus is a biological agent that reproduces inside the cells of a living host. When infected the virus forces the host cell to reproduce thousands of identical copies of the original virus at an exponential rate.

Experience shows that the risk of contracting a blood borne virus within our industry is very low. However, under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Management of Health and safety at Work Regulations 1999, you have a legal duty to protect the health of your employees and anyone else who may be affected by your work or who may be on your premises at any point on time.

In addition to human blood, blood borne viruses may also be present in the following bodily fluids;

  • Blood products
  • Saliva
  • Semen
  • Vaginal secretions
  • Skin tissue
  • Any other bodily fluids that visibly contains blood

All viruses have their own characteristics, below these are listed for the examples that have been looked at;


Hepatitis B

  • Attacks the liver
  • Symptoms develop two to three months after initial exposure occurs
  • It’s the most widespread throughout the world
  • In the UK 1 in 350 are infected
  • The virus can live outside of the body for up to a week on surfaces
  • Symptoms may include diarrhoea, jaundice, and dark coloured urine



  • Attacks the immune system
  • If the virus remains untreated it can develop into AIDS
  • There is no cure but medication is able to slow the progression
  • May be passed from mother to child at birth.


Hepatitis C

  • Infection is caused by a virus that attacks the liver and leads to inflammation
  • Most people who are infected will have no symptoms
  • Most will not be aware that they have the infection until liver damage becomes apparent years later.


Blood Borne Virus Facts

  • 65 cases of HIV infection due to occupational exposure occur each year
  • 200 healthcare workers die from Hepatitis yearly in the US
  • Sixty to seventy percent of individuals infected with Hepatitis C show no symptoms
  • An estimated 103,700 people are living with HIV in the UK, of these 17% are undiagnosed and do not know about their HIV infection
  • There were 6151 new diagnoses in 2015.