Overview of Selected Bloodborne Diseases

Written by: SphynxCatVP
Link to original: http://sphynxcatvp.nocturna.org/articles/sc-bbdisease.html

Universal Precautions

When dealing with blood or other body fluids, there are typical precautions against unwanted and unintentional contact that all medical staff follow. Even if you are not in a medical career yourself, learning these precautions will be useful for situations when you don't want to run the risk of disease transmission. These include:

  1. Protective barriers - gloves, face masks, gowns, goggles, etc. If you are allergic to latex, there are alternative materials such as Nitrile, Polyurethane, Polyisoprene, and others. Cost will vary depending on type of material.
  2. Wash hands, thoroughly, especially after exposure.
  3. Needles should not be handled by any body part.
  4. Dispose of single-use (disposable) sharps in a sharps container.
  5. Sterilize Nondisposable sharps before use - dry heat ovens and autoclaves (a device similar to a pressure cooker) are recommended.
  6. Clean wounds to prevent septicemia (details below.)

The following list of diseases are examples of why it's absolutely CRITICAL you get both you and your donor tested, and why you take precautions anytime you don't want the risk - diseases can be passed back to the donor as well as being passed from the donor. This is not a complete list - I covered only the fairly common disease risks, and there are likely other common ones I missed, besides the unusual ones I haven't covered here.

Hepatitis A

  • Information: Fact Sheet -- FAQ
  • Transmitted by: Poor hygiene and sanitation.
  • Vaccine available? Yes.
  • Preventable? Yes.
  • Fatal? Not usually.
  • Symptoms: Usually seen in adults more than children - jaundice (yellowed skin), fatigue, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, nausea, diarrhea and/or fever.
  • Other notes: Hep A typically has no long-term infection. Once you've had Hep A it runs it's course, you can't get it again. Typically spread after contact with infected feces, hence the advice to always wash your hands after using the bathroom.

Hepatitis B

  • Information: Fact Sheet -- FAQ
  • Transmitted by: Contact with blood or body fluids from an infected person. While unprotected sex and needle use often come to mind, other sources should be considered as well such as toothbrushes, razors and other personal care items, as well as tattoo equipment that has not been properly sterilized.
  • Vaccine available? Yes.
  • Preventable? Yes.
  • Fatal? If there's a chronic infection - 15-25% of the time.
  • Symptoms: About 30% of infected people have NO signs or symptoms. Usually seen in adults more than children - jaundice (yellowed skin), fatigue, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting and/or joint pain.
  • Other notes: May become a chronic infection if not treated; if it becomes chronic, death can occur in 15-25% of cases.

Hepatitis C

  • Information: Fact Sheet -- FAQ
  • Transmitted by: Contact with blood or body fluids from an infected person. While unprotected sex and needle use often come to mind, other sources should be considered as well such as toothbrushes, razors and other personal care items, as well as tattoo equipment that has not been properly sterilized.
  • Vaccine available? No.
  • Preventable? Yes.
  • Fatal? 1-5% fatality rate as well as the risk of developing Hepatitis B.
  • Symptoms: 80% of infected people have NO symptoms. When they do show up, symptoms include jaundice, fatigue, dark urine, abdominal pain, loss of appetite and/or nausea.
  • Other notes: If you have Hep C, do not donate blood, organs or tissue - the infection will spread via organ tissues.

Hepatitis D

  • Information: Fact Sheet
  • Transmitted by: Contact with blood or body fluids from an infected person. While unprotected sex and needle use often come to mind, other sources should be considered as well such as toothbrushes, razors and other personal care items, as well as tattoo equipment that has not been properly sterilized.
  • Vaccine available? Not for Hep-D specifically, but since Hep-D only infects patients with Hep-B, immunization against Hep-B will also prevent Hep-D.
  • Preventable? Yes.
  • Fatal? Potentially - liver transplant may be required if disease progress is serious enough.
  • Symptoms: Jaundice, fatigue, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, joint pain and/or dark (black or brown tea colored) urine.
  • Other notes: May be a co-infection (occurs simultaneously) or superinfection in people with Hep B. Liver disease more common in this case.

Hepatitis E

  • Information: Fact Sheet
  • Transmitted by: Contaminated food or water; found in feces of infected people AND animals.
  • Vaccine available? No.
  • Preventable? Yes.
  • Fatal? Unknown
  • Symptoms: Symptoms appear within 2 to 20 days after contact and typically includes red and sensitive skin followed by blisters. Flu-like symptoms are common, and urination may be painful.
  • Other notes: A person may be contagious without showing visible signs - not everyone gets blisters or or other typical warning signs. Read the link for details.

Herpes

  • Information: Fact Sheet, Transmission Info
  • Transmitted by: Spread by skin to skin contact from the site of infection. Typically this involves open sores making contact, but there are asymptomatic people who show no signs but are still contagious. This means the virus will spread without visible open sores.
  • Vaccine available? Not yet, but one is in development.
  • Preventable? Yes.
  • Fatal? Unknown - check links for details.
  • Symptoms: Jaundice, fatigue, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting and/or dark (black or brown tea colored) urine.
  • Other notes: More common in developing countries, but not impossible to find elsewhere.

HIV / AIDS

  • Information: FAQ
  • Transmitted by: Body fluid contact through broken skin or mucous membranes. In addition, it has been passed from mother to baby during pregnancy, delivery or breast-feeding.
  • Vaccine available? No, but one is in human trials for the slow variant
  • Preventable? Yes.
  • Fatal? Usually.
  • Symptoms: HIV/AIDS symptoms can mimic those of other diseases; the only sure way to tell is to get a test. Symptoms may include rapid weight loss, dry cough, fever/night sweats, unexplained fatigue, swollen lymph nods, diarrhea, severe lack of appetite, and others.
  • Other notes: At least two base forms known - one is the usual slow-acting variant most people are familiar with, however new in late 2004/early 2005 is a variant that runs it's entire course (including patient death) in about six (6) months. You cannot rely on symptoms alone to establish whether or not you or someone else has HIV/AIDS! If you need a test, call your local doctor, clinic, or other public health center to see where you can have it done locally.

Prion Diseases

  • Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE / "Mad Cow Disease")
  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD, vCJD, nvCJD)
  • Kuru (Found mostly in cannibalistic societies - not covered in this article)
  • Information: Fact Sheet/BSE -- Fact Sheet/CJD
  • Transmitted by: Malformed proteins (prions) ingested in contaminated blood or meat. Blood transfusion from infection persons. Also, eating meat that has been contaminated with the virus in infected animals - the virus has been found in the brain, spinal cord, retina, dorsal root ganglia (bundle of nerves at the base of the spine), distal ileum (lower small intestines) and bone marrow, suggesting that these represent the highest risk of transmission, and if processing facilities are not hygienic enough, contaminated parts may come in contact with uncontaminated parts.
  • Vaccine available? No.
  • Preventable? Yes.
  • Fatal? Yes - 100% (No cure or treatment available.)
  • Symptoms: BSE: Characterized by loss of motor control, dementia, paralysis wasting and eventually death typically following pneumonia. CJD/etc.: When symptoms begin, they start with psychiatric or sensory abnormalities, lack of coordination (early) and progresses to dementia and muscle spasms late in the disease.
  • >Other notes: Besides cows, BSE and CJD/vCJD/nvCJD have been found in elk, deer and other cloven-hoofed animals. A similar disease called "Scrappie" is found in sheep, and is thought to be the source of BSE in cows when animal parts are used in cattle feed.

Septicemia / Septic Shock

  • Information: Info #1 Info #2
  • Transmitted by: Any pathogenic organism (bacteria, fungi, virus) can cause septicemia and septic shock. These organisms can enter the body through several means - the site of another infection, surgical procedures, IV lines/needles, catheters, and physical injuries that break the skin. Septicemia occurs about 66% of the time in hospital patients.
  • Vaccine available? No.
  • Preventable? Yes.
  • Fatal? Yes, 5-60% fatality rate depending on complicating factors such as which invading organism it is, and whether the immune system is compromised.
  • Symptoms: Most patients have fever and chills that appear abruptly. Some may have low body temperature, rapid breathing, changes in mental state, etc. Loss of interest in food or surroundings may also develop. If it is being caused by meningitis bacteria, there may be a hemorrhagic rash - clusters of tiny blood spots that look like pin pricks. If untreated, these gradually get bigger and start to look like fresh bruises.
  • Other notes: This is not something to fool around with - it's so simple to prevent by washing/cleaning any wounds, there's no excuse for poor hygiene.

Syphilis

  • Information: Fact Sheet
  • Transmitted by: Typically by sexual contact; an open wound will spread the germ through a mucous membrane or broken skin. It can be passed from mother to child during pregnancy.
  • Vaccine available? No.
  • Preventable? Yes.
  • Fatal? Yes, if left untreated.
  • Symptoms: Primary stage is a sore at the site of infection that disappears within a few weeks. Secondary stage is a skin rash with penny-sized sores that appears 3-6 weeks after the sores appear. The rash may heal within several weeks or months. Second stage is contagious! If the disease is untreated and progresses to tertiary stage, the bacteria attack the heart, eyes, brain, nervous system, bones, joints or almost any other part of the body.
  • If the disease gets into the nervous system it is called neurosyphilis, and the time from infection to developing signs can take up to 20 years.
  • Other notes: Syphilis increases the risk of transmitting or acquiring HIV/AIDS by 300-500%. Symptoms can mimic those of many other diseases, so syphilis can often get left untreated until it's too late. Even if the disease is treated and eradicated, damage already done to organs and body parts cannot be reversed.

Credits/References