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Blood-borne viruses (BBVs)

4-minute read

What are blood-borne viruses (BBVs)?

Blood-borne viruses (BBVs) are viruses that are carried in the blood. The three major BBVs in Australia are hepatitis B, hepatitis C and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

Hepatitis B and C both affect the liver, and can cause symptoms like yellowing of the skin (jaundice), abdominal pain and fever. HIV affects the immune system, making it more difficult over time for a person to fight off infections and cancers.

Effective treatments are now available for hepatitis C and HIV. There is currently no treatment for hepatitis B; however, it can be prevented through vaccination.

What if I’m exposed to a BBV?

BBVs are passed through blood and other body fluids, like semen, vaginal fluid and breastmilk. They cannot spread through contact with faeces or urine, by coughing or sneezing, or by sharing cutlery and glasses.

Infection with BBVs often happens because of sharing needles and injection equipment or having sexual intercourse without a condom.

Exposure may also happen because of a needlestick injury. This is when a person’s skin is accidentally punctured by a needle that has been used by someone else. It can happen in public; for example, by stepping on a discarded syringe, or in healthcare places. The risk of infection with a BBV due to a needlestick injury for most people is very low.

If you’re worried that you’ve been exposed to a BBV, speak to your doctor. They can arrange blood tests and further treatment if needed.

HIV infection and AIDS

HIV infection and AIDS

People with HIV are unlikely to transmit the virus or develop AIDS if they get effective treatment. Learn about HIV prevention, testing and treatment.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B can lead to liver damage over time. If you have hepatitis B, it is important to protect others from infection. Find out how.

Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is a virus that can cause serious liver disease. The hepatitis C virus is spread when infected blood enters another person's bloodstream.

Needlestick injuries

Needlestick injuries

If skin is punctured by a sharp medical tool, like a scalpel or needle on a syringe, it is called a ‘needlestick injury’. Here's information about needlestick injuries from healthdirect and its partners.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: March 2024

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