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What are blood-borne viruses?

Blood-borne viruses (BBVs) are viruses that some people carry in their blood and can be spread from one person to another. Those infected with a BBV may show little or no symptoms of serious disease, but other infected people may be severely ill. You can become infected with a virus whether the person who infects you appears to be ill or not – indeed, they may be unaware they are ill as some persistent viral infections do not cause symptoms. An infected person can transmit (spread) blood-borne viruses from one person to another by various routes and over a prolonged time period.

The most prevalent BBVs are:

  • human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)- a virus which causes accuired immunodeficiency virus (AIDS), a disease affecting the body’s immune system
  • hepatitis B (HBV) and hepatitis C; BBVs causing hepatitis, a disease affecting the liver.

As well as through blood, these viruses can also be found and transmitted through other body fluids, for example:

  • vaginal secretions
  • semen
  • breast milk

Unless contaminated with blood, minimal risk of BBV infection is carried by:

  •  Urine
  •  Saliva
  •  Sweat
  •  Tears
  • Sputum
  •  Vomit
  • Feces