Clinical laboratory workers encounter a variety of occupational hazards, including exposure to infectious agents. The routes of pathogen exposure associated with laboratory work include ingestion, inhalation, direct inoculation, and contamination of skin and mucous membranes. The accidental inoculation of infectious materials (i.e., via contaminated needles, broken glass, or other sharps) is the leading cause of laboratory-associated infections.
The fear associated with the recent Ebola virus epidemic triggered a renewed interest in occupationally acquired
infections in healthcare workers in the US, including the safety of
laboratory workers in handling samples from persons under investigation for Ebola virus disease. Individuals at risk for Ebola virus disease are also at
risk for several other infectious diseases with overlapping symptom
profiles (such as malaria, influenza, and bacteremia) thus obligating a
number of diagnostic laboratory tests. In addition, the clinical
management of patients with Ebola virus disease requires ongoing laboratory testing to
optimize care (such as complete blood count, coagulation testing,
electrolyte analysis, etc.).
Laboratory testing for suspect or confirmed Ebola virus disease patients is unfamiliar
to most healthcare workers in the US, and thus determining the safest
approach to this testing generated anxiety and controversy.
Ebola virus and other emerging pathogens will continue to be encountered in the
clinical laboratory. It is the joint responsibility of laboratorians and
laboratory leadership to create a culture of safety and adherence to
safety protocols, which are essential to reduce the risk of
Can't Touch This! Contamination of Laboratory Equipment with Bloodborne Pathogens