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Sexual Health Links

Needle Stick Injuries

Piercing–Things to consider

Sexuality clinics

Regional HIV/AIDS Connection

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis C

Blood Borne Infections

This page was reviewed or revised on Wednesday, October 05, 2011 11:40 AM

How are Hepatitis B, HIV and Hepatitis C spread?

Hepatitis B and HIV are spread by exposure to blood, semen and vaginal fluid. Hepatitis B can also very rarely be spread by exposure to saliva. Hepatitis C is spread by exposure to blood. Sexual exposure is also believed to spread Hepatitis C but the risk is quite low.

The main method of spread for Hepatitis B and HIV in Canada is unprotected sexual contact with an infected individual. Other sources of infection include sharing of intravenous needles, and from an infected mother to her newborn child. Rarely, Hepatitis B can be transmitted by a bite from an infected individual. Hepatitis C is mainly spread through exposure to blood, through unprotected sexual contact or blood transfusion prior to 1990.

Other types of activities which should be avoided include tattooing or ear piercing with improperly sterilized equipment, and sharing razors and toothbrushes, or syringes used to inject drugs.

Hepatitis B, C and HIV can be transmitted by needle sticks from infected individuals. Infection of Hepatitis B and HIV can also occur when infected blood contacts non-intact skin, or the lining of the eyes, nose or mouth. Hepatitis B is much more contagious than HIV.

What are universal precautions?

Universal precautions are a set of procedures designed to prevent the spread of blood borne illnesses in the occupational setting.

Under universal precautions, a person should assume that all blood is capable of transmitting HIV, Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C. The person should take appropriate precautions to prevent this transmission.

Universal precautions involve wearing gloves whenever there is contact with blood. Hands should be washed immediately after the gloves are removed. Masks and protective eye wear should be worn whenever blood is likely to be splashed into the face.

How should blood be cleaned up?

The following steps should be taken when cleaning up blood:

  • wear gloves
  • soak up blood with disposable towels
  • disinfect the area with a solution of one part bleach to nine parts water
  • discard disposable towels and gloves into a plastic bag and seal the bag
  • wash hands well
  • soak the mop in a bleach solution

Hepatitis B vaccine

People who may have contact with blood should be vaccinated against Hepatitis B.

The Hepatitis B vaccine is more than 95% effective in preventing Hepatitis B. Three shots are required - one initially, the second, one month later and the third, five months after the second.

The vaccine is extremely safe. It is produced artificially and does not contain any blood products. The main side effect is a sore arm where the needle is given.

The vaccine is free of charge for those who are:

  • Newborns of mothers who are Hepatitis B chronic carriers.
  • Household contacts and sexual partners of infected people.
  • People who are sexually active with multiple sex partners.
  • Patients on renal dialysis and those frequently requiring blood products (e.g. haemophiliacs).
  • People who have a needlestick injury in a non-healthcare setting.
  • People who have Hepatitis C.

For further information on blood borne infections or the Hepatitis B vaccine, please contact the Community Health Services Department at 519 383-8331 ext 3547.

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