Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) (continued…)

Exposure

An exposure that might place a worker at risk for HBV, HCV, or HIV infection is defined as:

  • A percutaneous injury (e.g., a needlestick or cut with a sharp object); or
  • Contact of mucous membrane or non-intact skin (e.g., exposed skin that is chapped, abraded, or afflicted with dermatitis) with blood, tissue, or other body fluids that are potentially infectious.

Indirect exposure from contaminated objects is a risk, because hepatitis B virus can remain infectious on environmental surfaces for up to a week (7 days) in the form of dried blood.

This means you must always treat blood, wet or dry, as infectious!

Vaccination

A vaccination to prevent hepatitis B virus infection is available. The hepatitis B vaccine series is a sequence of three shots that stimulate a person’s natural immune system to protect against the virus. After the vaccine is given, the body makes antibodies to protect a person against the virus. Antibodies are specialized proteins found in the blood that produce an immune response to a virus invading the body. These antibodies are stored in the body to guard against future infections. They will fight off an infection if a person is exposed to the hepatitis B virus in the future.

Scenario

Michelle is a custodian in a public elementary school. At the end of each school day, she cleans and vacuums the building, including the schools health room. While cleaning the health room she notices some dried blood on the floor.

Should Michelle be concerned about exposure to Hepatitis B virus?

Yes. Any blood, wet or dry, has the potential to carry infectious Hepatitis B virus. As a result, Michelle must take precautions to prevent potential exposure to bloodborne pathogens, including Hepatitis B virus.