Know The Risks!
One of the risks
that you face as a Border Patrol Agent is potential exposure to bloodborne
pathogens such as the hepatitis B virus, the hepatitis C virus and the human
immunodeficiency virus (HIV) Several laws and regulations have been
developed to help educate and protect you against bloodborne diseases.
Safety and Health Administration has issued a standard on bloodborne pathogens
designed to protect employees who face exposure to blood or other potentially
infectious materials on the job. Under this law, sector management must
address your protection in a written Exposure Control Plan which describes
precautions you can take to prevent exposure as well as the steps you must take
if an exposure occurs. Your sector Safety Manager has complied this plan
which also incorporates the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
guidelines specific to law enforcement officers.
You are also
protected by the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency Act, updated
in 1994, which mandate that medical facilities inform you when you have been
exposed to a communicable disease while giving someone assistance. It also
requires that sector management have a Designated Officer who serves as your
advocate in the event of an exposure. Local 1613, of the National Border
Patrol Council has appointed me as this person. It is my responsibility to
ensure that proper documentation and medical follow-up is conducted on your
Diseases: Know Their M.O.
are several diseases transmitted by blood, the ones you should be concerned
about on the job are hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV.
immunodeficiency virus attacks the body’s immune system and destroys the
ability to fight infection. A person infected with HIV may simply carry
the virus and remain in apparently normal health for many years. Although
many persons infected with HIV go on to develop AIDS, the rate is declining due
to new drug treatments. Persons with HIV infection can not live longer,
healthier lives. There still is no effective vaccine to prevent AIDS and
viral infection, a disease which affect the liver, poses a greater risk to than
HIV infection. Most persons infected with hepatitis B virus get over their
infection, but for some, this disease progresses to chronic liver disease or
liver cancer and death. Fortunately, a vaccine IS available to protect you
against getting hepatitis B virus. Symptoms of the hepatitis B virus may
include: jaundice, dark brown urine and clay colored feces—but sometimes the
disease may go unnoticed. Completely healthy people can carry the virus,
so it is important to consider ALL BLOOD AS A POTENTIAL RISK.
Hepatitis C virus also attacks the liver.
Since hepatitis C and hepatitis B have the same symptoms, a blood test is
required to tell the difference. Hepatitis C is more treacherous than
hepatitis B: about 75 percent of people show no outward signs or symptoms of
this disease when they become infected but up to 85 percent will go on to
develop long term chronic liver disease. Currently, there is no effective
treatment or protective vaccine for this disease.
of Bloodborne Diseases
Hepatitis B, C
and HIV are spread in the same ways. They are not spread through the air
like cold and flue germs, so you won’t get these viruses from working alongside
someone who is infected or from touching, coughing, sneezing or a kiss on the
cheek. Nor will you become infected from sharing things such as telephones,
bathrooms, eating utensils, gym equipment, swimming pools or water fountains
with an infected person.
are spread through contact with blood, semen, vaginal secretions (sexual
contact) and any other body fluid or tissue that contains visible blood.
You can also get infected by contact with the fluid that surrounds an unborn
child and the fluid around the heart, lungs, or joints.
Body fluids such
as sweat, tears, saliva, urine, stool, vomitus, nasal secretions and sputum have
not been shown to transmit bloodborne diseases, unless they contain visible
You’re at risk when you’re exposed in the following ways:
Being pricked by a contaminated needle
Being cut with an object covered with blood
or other potentially infectious materials
Being splashed by blood or other potentially
infectious materials into your eye, up your nose or in your mouth
Having a broken area of your skin come in
contact with blood or other potentially infectious materials. Cuts, sores
or even tiny breaks in the skin from dermatitis can be doorways for the viruses
to enter your body.
Infection After and Exposure
being exposed to blood or other potentially infectious material does not mean
you are automatically infected with a bloodborne disease. You need a
large enough dose of the live virus to enter your blood stream and overcome your
body’s defense system to become infected. For example, if the number of
live organisms present in the exposure material is not high enough, infection
cannot occur. The ability of the virus to infect is also important.
For instance, the hepatitis B virus can survive on environmental surfaces in
dried blood for at least a week, while HIV is fragile and dies when exposed to
light and air.
You can help those in need and protect the public safety without risking your
own health by following simple safety precautions.
How to Avoid
Exposure Control Plan details the following precautions you can take to protect
yourself against bloodborne pathogen exposure:
You can protect
yourself from hepatitis B infection simply by receiving a hepatitis B vaccine,
which is a series of three shots in the upper arm over a period of six months.
Today’s vaccines are safe and very effective at protecting you from hepatitis B
in you complete the series.
Many people can
carry bloodborne pathogens for many years without showing any symptoms and yet
be contagious. That’s why it is so important to follow Body Substance
Isolation, or BSI. It means treating blood and body fluids as if they are
infected with bloodborne or other pathogens. BSI provides a simple rule:
consider all body fluids to pose a potential risk.
Protective Equipment (PPE)
PPE provides a
barier against contact with bloodborne diseases. PPE includes gloves,
protective eyewear, masks, gowns or coveralls and resuscitation devices.
Your department will provide you with these items and train you to use them
properly, but here are some general rules.
Make sure PPE fits properly and check it
routinely for flaws or damage.
Remove PPE as soon as possible if it become
penetrated by blood or other potentially infectious material.
Always remove PPE before leaving the work
Avoid eating, drinking, and using tobacco
products while wearing PPE (gloves).
Immediately dispose of used PPE and have it
laundered, decontaminated or disposed of according to Sector’s policy.
When removing gloves, be careful not to touch the outside.
While both hands are gloved, peel one glove off from top to
bottom and hold it in the gloved hand. With the exposed
hand, peel the second glove from the top, tucking the first
glove inside the second. Dispose of the entire bundle
promptly according to the waste regulations outlined in you
Sector Health and Safety protocol. Then wash your hands.
eyewear blocks the splatter of blood and other potentially infectious materials
from contacting the surface of the eye. Protective eyewear should have
side shields. Prescription glasses with clip-on side shields can be used
for eye protection. Reusable glasses should be washed with soap and water
after use and disinfected and then can be used again.
Masks block the
splatter of blood and other potentially infectious material from entering your
mouth and nose.
devices are designed to protect you from contact with blood and other
potentially infectious materials during mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Your
Sector Safety and Health Manager is responsible for ensuring that you are
trained in the proper use and decontamination of these devices, whether reusable
PPE’s should be
with you at all time. Keep gloves on your person and other PPE in your
“trique” bag. Check your Exposure Control Plan to see what PPE is needed
in each situation you may encounter.
should wear the amount of PPE needed to protect your skin or clothing against
the type of exposure you reasonably anticipate. For instance, you should
wear gloves when transporting bleeding prisoners or contaminated materials such
as clothing. Your Sector Safety Manager is responsible for providing you
with sharps puncture resistant containers at your processing locations or in
other places you feel to be appropriate.
Controls: Modify Daily Tasks
practices that protect you against contact with blood or other potentially
have arrestees empty their own pockets. If you must search pockets, wear
gloves and use your asp or flash light to rub the pockets and test for hidden
objects. Ask women to open their own purses by turning them upside down.
NEVER PUT YOUR HAND IN A PURSE!
single use gloves under your duty gloves. In some situations where your
clothing may become contaminated due to a large amount of blood or other
potentially infectious materials at a crime scene, wear a gown or coveralls.
Place evidence in clearly marked plastic bags and seal with evidence tape.
Bloody items should be air-dried on a rack, them bagged as evidence. If
you must collect syr8inges or other sharps, handle syringes by the barrel and do
not cap, bend or break their needles. Place needles and sharps in a
collection container that is puncture-resistant, leakprooof, closeable and
labeled or color-coded as a biohazard.
your number one protection against infection, and it keeps you from infecting
other people or objects. Wash your hands with soap and water as soon as
possible after every incident involving blood or another potentially infectious
material, even if you wore gloves. If soap and water are not available,
use the waterless handwash solution furnished by your Sector Safety Manager as a
temporary precaution only. You still must wash your hands with soap and
water as soon as you can.
thoroughly for at least 10 to 15 seconds (the time it takes to sing "Happy
Birthday"), including under your rings, between your fingers and above your
under running water and dry hands with a paper towel.
Use paper towel to
turn off the faucet, then discard the towel into general trash.
Making a Clean Sweep
T clean body armor, remove the vest while
wearing gloves and spot-clean contaminated areas with soap and water. If
vest is soaked with blood, refer to tha manufacturer’s cleaning instructions.
To clean leather gear, rinse contaminated
areas and then wash with saddle soap.
To clean metal gear, wash with soap and
water and then spray disinfectant.
To launder contaminated clothing, follow
Sector’s policy. At a minimum, rinse the articles well and then launder
with soap. Use the normal wash cycle of a standard washing machine.
Always wear gloves, mask and eye protection when laundering by hand.
To clean contaminated surfaces, cover the
spill with absorbent material such as paper towels. Clean according to CDC
recommendations by pouring a fresh solution of 1 part bleach to 100 parts water
on the outer edge of the spill and allow to absorb inward. Then, wearing
utility gloves pick up the material and place into a biohazard bag and dispose
of according to your state regulations. Make sure to disinfect mops or any
other cleaning equipment after use.
To clean contaminated service vehicles, wear
utility gloves and wash interior with bleach/water solution or Lysol
concentrate, depending on the material. Then bag cleaning materials and
discard in biohazard bag following Sector’s policy.
When handling biohazardous waste, wear utility gloves and touch waste containers
on the outside only. Never reach inside or push trash down with your hands
or feet. Instead, shake down the waste by holding the top of the bag.
Carry bags away from your body. Use a broom and dustpan or tongs to pick
up broken glass, not your hands. Dispose of biohazardous waste according
to your state regulations. Regulations differ from state to state
depending on definition of medical waste.
Exposed: Dealing with the Unexpected
best efforts you may sometimes get caught without personal protective equipment
and become exposed to blood or other potentially infectious material. If
you are exposed, don’t panic. Wash exposed skin areas with soap and water.
Flush eyes and mucous membranes with large amounts of water. With large
amounts of contamination, remove clothes and place in a plastic bag until they
can be laundered, shower and don the clean change of clothing that you always
carry with you. Report the incident to your supervisor and your station’s
designated Collateral Health and Safety Officer, giving as many details as
possible regarding the type of and source of the exposure. Your designated
Collateral Health and Safety Officer will document the incident, ensure that the
proper blood work is drawn on both you and the source individual, and inform you
of the test results and the need for any additional medical treatment and
Exposure does not automatically mean
infection. To put risk exposure into perspective, let’s look at the
greatest risk you face—your risk of acquiring bloodborne diseases after being
injured by a contaminated sharp:
Your risk of acquiring hepatitis B is
from 6 to 30 percent
Your risk of acquiring hepatitis C if
from 3 to 10 percent
Your risk of acquiring HIV infection is
As a Border
Patrol Agent you will always face risks, and you will do whatever it takes to
get the job done as safely and as effectively as possible. You can deal
effectively with the risk of exposure to bloodborne pathogens by following the
simple safety precautions we just discussed. Remember to use PPE when
possible, report any potential exposure to your designated Collateral Health and
Safety Officer and supervisor, and follow your treatment plan following any