Other Potentially Infectious Materials

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 5.6 million workers are at risk of occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens, including hepatitis B, hepatitis C, HIV, etc. 

When exposed to blood or other potentially infectious materials (OPIM), workers are at risk from infection.

What are ‘other potentially infectious materials,’ commonly abbreviated to OPIM?

Other potentially infectious materials are bodily fluids, tissues, and organs from a human being that can spread infection from one person to another through direct contact. 

When speaking about blood in this article and on our website, we are referring to human blood, products made from human blood, and human blood components. 

OPIM Include:

  • Semen 
  • Vaginal secretions
  • Amniotic fluid 
  • Cerebrospinal fluid (spine and brain) 
  • Pericardial fluid (tissues around the heart)
  • Peritoneal fluid (abdomen)
  • Synovial fluid (lubricates the joints) 
  • Pleural fluid (the membrane that covers the lungs and lines the chest cavity)
  • Saliva, particularly during dental procedures
  • Any bodily fluid contaminated with blood or potentially contaminated, but it is difficult to determine the presence or absence of blood
  • Any unfixed tissue or organ from a human or primate (living or dead)
  • Human cell cultures used for research purposes
  • Any cells or cultures contaminated with HIV, HBV, HCV, or other BBPs
  • Blood, organs, and tissues from experimental animals infected with HIV or HBV
  • Any pathogenic microorganism

Unless visibly contaminated with blood, sweat, feces, tears, saliva, nasal secretions, urine, and vomit are not considered OPIM. 

Transmission of a Bloodborne Pathogen via an OPIM

The following are common ways that one can be infected with a BBP.

  • An accidental or intentional skin puncture with a contaminated needle 
  • Direct contact of the contaminated fluid with broken skin, a cut, or a wound.
  • Direct contact of the contaminated fluid with the eyes, nose, or mouth, which contain mucous membranes that give pathogens a convenient entrance to the body.
  • A bite that breaks the skin and comes into contact with blood. 
  • Sexual contact. 
  • Mother-to-fetus transmission during pregnancy and birth.

It is vital to take precautions anytime you are at risk for exposure to blood and other potentially infectious materials. Wear PPE and perform your job so that you minimize the risk of exposure. Keep wounds covered and clean, avoid unprotected sexual contact, and always be mindful around bodily fluids that may transmit bloodborne pathogens.