OSHA Updates Avian Flu Guidance

Nov. 16, 2006
Updated guidance from OSHA for occupational exposure to the H5N1 virus – avian flu – focuses on good hygiene, including use of gloves and hand washing, as well as respiratory protection for those who work with infected animals or individuals.

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

The new document – OSHA Guidance Update on Protecting Employees from Avian Flu Viruses – 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, health care personnel, food handlers, travelers and U.S. employees stationed abroad.

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.

Avian Flu Could Be the Next Flu Pandemic

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 federal government is providing funding, advice, support and up-to-date information to help Americans prepare for and prevent the spread of avian flu in this country. The world's public health community is concerned that a new avian flu subtype may acquire the capability of human-to-human transmission, and become an agent for the next flu pandemic.

Increasing concern over the possibility of a pandemic has led the World Health Organization to develop a Global Influenza Preparedness Plan, and the White House to issue its National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza.

OSHA Guidance Available on Agency's Web site

OSHA Guidance Update on Protecting Employees from Avian Flu Viruses, as well as other important 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 or by clicking here.

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

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