Cases of work-related infectious disease in the United States are concentrated in certain industries and occupations, particularly among health care, laboratory, animal and public service workers, according to the results of a literature review published in Emerging Infectious Diseases.
“Although the risk of acquiring a work-related infectious disease has been known for a very long time, much remains unknown about the scope and incidence of, and risk factors for, infectious diseases acquired as a result of work,” Sara E. Luckhaupt, MD, MPH, of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, told Infectious Disease News. “This literature search represents a comprehensive review of infectious disease investigations in 66 U.S. workplaces from 2006 to 2015 and describes disease, worker, and workplace factors that can facilitate transmission. We highlight a number of effective prevention and control measures, using the occupational health and safety hierarchy of controls as a framework.”
Luckhaupt and colleagues defined work-related infectious diseases “as those primarily caused by occupational exposure to biologic agents” such as bacteria, fungi, viruses and parasites that can be transmitted from humans, animals or the environment.
The review focused on work-related infectious disease cases published in PubMed and the National Institute for Occupation Safety and Health’s Health Hazard Evaluation (HHE) reports database that occurred from 2006-2015. The researchers classified the results by industry category and occupation using the North American Industry Classification System.
The search produced 67 articles and seven HHE reports from 66 investigations of workplace infectious diseases, according to the researchers.
“Bacteria were responsible for most reported cases, followed by viruses, fungi, and parasites or protozoa,” they wrote.
Some serious workplace disease clusters were caused by emerging and re-emerging pathogens including the Ebola virus, lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus, norovirus, Bacillus anthracis and Yersinia pestis, the researchers reported.
“Emerging and reemerging work-related infectious diseases will continue to threaten workers’ health. Previously published literature has identified several high-risk occupations, but other occupations may also be at risk. Indeed, we cannot know with certainty which industry or which workers will be at risk in the future,” they concluded.
“Considering occupational risk factors and controlling exposures among workers when investigating infectious disease may help prevent disease transmission in the workplace. In addition, because person-to-person transmission between workers and members of the public can propagate some disease outbreaks, assessment of worker infection may contribute to control of disease outbreaks in communities.” – by Erin Michael
Disclosure: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.