NIOSH Seeks Comment on List of Diseases that May Pose Risk for Emergency Responders

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) invites public comment on a proposed list of infectious diseases that may pose life-threatening health risks to emergency response employees through bloodborne or airborne transmission.

The NIOSH notice asks for comment on proposed guidelines describing the circumstances in which emergency response employees may be exposed to such diseases and proposed guidelines describing the manner in which medical facilities should determine whether emergency response employees have been exposed in the line of duty.

“In saving the lives of others, emergency response employees themselves should not be exposed to life-threatening health risks,” said NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D. “We encourage comment on today’s notice to help protect responders from exposures to serious, transmissible diseases in the line of duty.”

The proposed list includes three categories of potentially life-threatening infectious diseases:

  • Potentially life-threatening infectious diseases routinely transmitted by contact or body fluid exposures: hepatitis B, hepatitis C, HIV infection, rabies and vaccinia virus.
  • Potentially life-threatening infectious diseases routinely transmitted through aerosolized airborne means: measles, tuberculosis and varicella disease.
  • Potentially life-threatening infectious diseases routinely transmitted through aerosolized droplet means: avian influenza, diphtheria, meningococcal disease, mumps, pneumonic plague, rubella, SARS-CoV, smallpox and viral hemorrhagic fevers.

Comments should be submitted by Feb. 11, 2011. Comments by email should be submitted to NIOSH Docket Officer, [email protected]. Include “Infectious Diseases” and “42 U.S.C. 300ff-131” in the subject line of the message. Comments also may be submitted by mail to the NIOSH Docket Office, Robert A. Taft Laboratories, MS-C34, 4676 Columbia Parkway, Cincinnati, OH 45226 or online at

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