NIOSH Offers Updated Guidelines to Protect Responders from Infectious Disease Exposure

In an effort to protect emergency responders from exposure to dangerous infectious diseases, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is offering updated resources, including a list of potentially life-threatening infectious diseases, guidelines describing how emergency response employees may be exposed to diseases and guidelines for medical facilities determining whether exposure has occurred.

The list of potentially life-threatening infectious diseases includes diphtheria, hepatitis B, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, viral hemorrhagic fevers, meningococcal disease, pneumonic plague and rabies, all of which previously had been listed. New additions to the list include:

· Anthrax, cutaneous
· Novel influenza A
· Other influenza strains with pandemic severity index greater than or equal to 3
· Hepatitis C
· Measles
· Mumps
· Pertussis
· Rubella
· Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS-CoV)
· Smallpox
· Vaccinia
· Varicella disease
· Select agents

Other updated resources include guidelines describing the circumstances in which emergency response employees may be exposed to such diseases while attending to or transporting victims of emergencies; and guidelines for medical facilities making determinations whether such exposures have occurred.

NIOSH and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion (DHQP) worked together to develop the required list and guidelines. The action was taken as a result of provisions in the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act of 2009. NIOSH and CDC incorporated input from stakeholders for the revisions and updates.

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