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Maintaining Control of Infectious Diseases in the Workplace

5/27/2021 (Permalink)

seated man sneezing near onlooking female coworkers Avoid contact with sick individuals and stay away from public places where there may be an increased risk of infection by airborne transmissions.

What Are Infectious Diseases?

 The World Health Organization reports that communicable diseases caused by microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, and viruses are the major cause of death in the world. The WHO also estimates that these types of infections account for about 2 million deaths annually.

To reduce this number, we must first understand how they spread and control them in the workplace. 

Infectious Disease Control

 Infectious disease control is preventing and controlling infectious diseases to reduce or eliminate their harmful effects. This includes both occupational health and public health, which work together with a common goal: To protect people from illness caused by microorganisms that they may come across at work or as part of daily life. 

The primary methods for preventing infectious diseases in the workplace are:

  • Hand hygiene
  • Vaccinations
  • Proper use of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment)

A solid rule to follow is that if you think you might touch your nose, mouth, or eyes before washing your hands, you should wash them.

This is an important precaution because these are the parts of our body that are most likely to become infected with bacteria and other organisms.


The Importance of Infection Control in the Workplace

 It is important to take precautions in the workplace because many infectious diseases can be transmitted by coming into contact with blood, other bodily fluids, or items contaminated with these substances.

Awareness is the key to maintaining control of infectious diseases in the workplace and preventing them from spreading. 

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

 Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) includes gloves, masks, and eye goggles/face shields. The type of PPE will depend on the exposure risk. For example, if you're working with a known pathogen, then gloves and possibly eye protection are necessary to prevent contamination from occurring during contact. 

The steps for donning your PPE properly include:

 -Make sure all clothing is removed before putting on any personal protective equipment.
-Put on the gloves and make sure they fit.
-Take off your rings, watches, bracelets, or anything else that can't be worn inside PPE before putting it on.
-Wear any items such as boots or gloves first, then put on the other layers.
-Attach your mask by tying it around your head or slipping over your nose and mouth where it will stay in place with elastic bands at either side of the top of the face shield to hold tight against your forehead. 

How Infectious Diseases Are Classified

 Infectious diseases can be classified into two categories: non-communicable diseases and infectious diseases. Communicable diseases are transmitted from person-to-person while non-communicable diseases are not contagious or passed on from one person to another.

This article will focus on communicable infectious diseases in the workplace, including their prevention, symptoms, transmission methods, and treatments.

Viruses, bacteria, and fungi cause infectious diseases. Viruses can be transmitted in droplets or fluids from coughing, sneezing, or spitting. Bacteria may be spread through contact with a wound of an infected person and the ingestion of contaminated food and water. Fungi can also contaminate foods that have been left out. 

Ways to Prevent Infectious Diseases

 The first step for prevention is to maintain a safe and clean work environment by following these simple steps: 
  • Wash hands with soap or disinfectant, especially after touching common areas such as handles, keyboards, etc.
  • Clean surfaces that are touched frequently, including doorknobs and desks.
  • Store food in the refrigerator/freezer and, if necessary, in a clean area.
  • It is best not to eat at your desk or while working on the computer.

No one wants to get sick! These simple steps will go a long way towards preventing infection from common infectious diseases such as colds, flu, and norovirus, among others.

The second step is for people who have been diagnosed with an infectious disease to:

  • Not return to work until the illness has gone away.
  • Follow any instructions from your doctor to prevent the spread of infection.

If a person is exhibiting symptoms, they should stay home from school or work to not pass on whatever it is they have to others.

The third step is for immune-compromised people, such as those with HIV:

  • Stay away from public places where there may be an increased risk of infection by airborne transmissions, like shopping malls or theaters.
  • Take precautions when coming into contact with other people, including avoiding touching hands and surfaces that might have been contaminated.

The fourth step is for people who are not immune-compromised, such as those without HIV:

  • Avoid contact with sick individuals and stay away from public places where there may be an increased risk of infection by airborne transmissions like shopping malls or theaters.
  • Wash hands thoroughly after touching a surface that may have been contaminated, such as a shopping cart handle, a door handle, a computer keyboard.
  • Avoid making contact with others if they are sick. If you must make contact with someone who is sick, wash your hands thoroughly first and refrain from touching surfaces that may have been contaminated.

The fifth step would be for people in the workplace:

Make sure all employees feel confident about recognizing symptoms of the disease
Cover mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.

To take precautions against disease-spreading mosquitoes, people can take measures to reduce contact with them:

Stay inside during evening hours, dusk-dawn, where mosquitoes are most active. Take steps to avoid mosquito bites, like use mosquito repellent.
Drain or cover containers that hold water, as mosquitoes need standing water to reproduce.

By understanding the importance of controlling infectious diseases in the workplace, we can prevent the spread of diseases.

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