There is the risk of contracting HIV or viral hepatitis during professional activities in various situations, for example, when contaminated blood enters an open wound or on the mucous membrane, when injected with a syringe with fresh blood residue, and other potentially dangerous cases. Workers at risk are considered to be people who, in the course of their daily work duties, come into contact with potentially infectious bodily fluids (health care workers, police, rescue services, crime scene cleaners, prison employees, etc.).
Blood-borne infections are micro-organisms found in human blood that can infect crime scene cleaners or health care workers, and police when they come into contact with that blood. The most common are hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The causative agents of these infections are known to be transmitted through unprotected sexual contact with an infected person, as well as through stab and cut wounds when blood gets on mucous membranes or damaged skin.
Infectiously dangerous are the following fluids:
• blood and all body fluids containing blood,
• seminal fluid and vaginal fluid.
Whereas such substances as feces, nasal secretions, saliva, sputum, sweat, tears, urine, vomit are considered non-infectious (if they do not contain an amount of blood visible to the eye).
Although the proteins of the hepatitis B virus and HIV (with the exception of sweat) can be isolated from the above biological materials, these quantities are not sufficient to transmit the infection. Dentists and crime scene cleaners must take into account the possibility of infection through saliva. There are cases of HIV transmission through bites, but all these cases were accompanied by serious injuries like tissue damage and bleeding.
Crime scene cleaners also know that HIV may remain viable for a couple of days in the dried blood. If such dried blood particles get on the mucous membrane of a human or in an open wound, the infection is theoretically possible.
The risk of infection in case of penetrating damage to the skin:
• in contact with the blood of an HIV-infected person – 0.3%;
• in contact with the blood of a person infected with hepatitis B – 23–62%;
• in contact with the blood of a person infected with hepatitis C – 1.8%.
The risk of infection from mucosal contact with HIV-infected blood is approximately 0.09%, and from the contact of damaged skin with HIV-infected blood – less than 0.09%.
The risk of infection in contact with blood depends on many factors. The risk increases with contact with large amounts of blood, which crime scene cleaners deal with.
Therefore, crime scene cleaners always follow the safety rules:
• Always use protective gloves. Although they will not prevent punctures, they will reduce the amount of blood carried in case of contact.
• Seal abrasions and wounds on the hands with a waterproof plaster.
• Wear a mouth and nose mask and goggles to prevent splashes from entering the nose, mouth, and eyes.
• Wash hands and other skin surfaces immediately after contact with blood or other body fluids.
It is important to wash off the biological material that has come into contact with the skin with a stream of running water, and then wash the affected area with detergent and rinse again under running water. In case of penetrating skin injury, rinse the injured part under running water, allowing blood to flow freely from the wound (without pressing on the wound area). Then the damaged area should be washed with detergent and rinsed again under running water.
All things considered, taking safety measures and knowing how to protect yourself is a must when dealing with potentially risky situations.