Employers urged to protect workers as researchers seek more info on flu
Frequent hand washing, covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue, and encouraging workers to get vaccinated are among the recommendations for employers to prevent the flu from spreading throughout the workforce. Health care workers should additionally be advised to strictly follow infection control practices and use gloves, gowns, and other protective equipment to reduce exposures.
Most experts believe influenza viruses are spread mainly by large-particle respiratory droplets produced when affected people cough, sneeze, or talk. The droplet can "land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled," according to a science blog posting by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. "Transmission via large-particle droplets requires close contact between source and recipient persons because droplets do not remain suspended in the air and generally travel only a short distance, usually less than 2 meters, through the air."
Influenza is believed to also be spread through airborne transmission and contact transmission. "Airborne transmission via small particles suspended in the air for extended periods of time, also is thought to be possible, although data are limited," according to the blog. "Less often, a person might also become infected with influenza by touching a surface or object that has influenza virus on it and then touching his or her own mouth or nose."
NIOSH researchers are conducting studies about the underlying science of influenza transmission with a focus on airborne transmission and how to protect health care workers in particular. Among the questions they are addressing are:
- Is there a correlation between exposure to airborne influenza and illness among health care workers?
- Can better methods be developed to detect infectious airborne influenza virus? The researchers are developing more sensitive methods of measuring influenza virus viability than those currently in use.
- How well do different types of personal protective equipment perform under different exposure scenarios?
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
February 18, 2013
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