OSHA issues guidance to protect workers from avian flu

RP news wires, Noria Corporation
Tags: workplace safety

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on November 14 unveiled new safety and health guidance that alerts employees and employers about the hazards of occupational exposure to avian influenza from infected birds, or "avian flu," and provides practical recommendations on ways to avoid infection.

OSHA Guidance Update on Protecting Employees from Avian Flu Viruses, as well as other important resource information on the topic, is available in English and Spanish by visiting the In Focus section on the home page of OSHA's Web site at www.osha.gov.

"We encourage employers and employees who are most likely to be exposed to avian flu to take the appropriate precautions," said OSHA administrator Ed Foulke. "This guidance offers them practical tips, such as hand washing and the use of proper protective equipment, for preventing illness."

Wild birds, particularly waterfowl, are natural hosts of avian flu viruses and often show no symptoms; however, some of the viruses can cause high mortality in poultry, including the H5N1 virus. Some strains of avian flu viruses carried by these wild birds can infect domestic fowl and in turn can infect humans, causing fever, cough, sore throat, eye infections and muscle pain. Avian flu can also lead to pneumonia, acute respiratory distress, and other severe and life-threatening complications. The most common route of transmission to humans is by contact with contaminated poultry.

The new document updates guidance on avian flu issued by OSHA in 2004. The update provides separate recommendations for poultry employees and those who handle other animals, and for laboratory employees, healthcare personnel, food handlers, travelers, and U.S. employees stationed abroad. The primary focus is on good hygiene, including use of gloves and hand washing, as well as respiratory protection for those who work with infected animals or individuals.

The guidance also includes links to helpful Web sites with additional information, and a list of technical articles and resources, including a history on flu pandemics, symptoms and outcomes of various strains of the avian flu, a summary of the bird importation regulations, and details on the transmission of the virus.

For more information on federal activities on avian flu and pandemic flu, please see http://www.pandemicflu.gov/.


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