As a result of infectious disease outbreaks and pandemics throughout the recent past, OSHA has developed infectious disease preparedness and response planning guidance. The guidance is based on traditional infection prevention and industrial hygiene practices and focuses on the design, development, and deployment of an Infectious Disease Prevention and Response (IDPR) Plan.
Click on the button below to see information on a variety of recent infectious disease outbreaks and pandemics.
Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) - One of the deadliest viral diseases, Ebola was discovered in 1976 when two consecutive outbreaks of fatal hemorrhagic fever occurred in different parts of Central Africa. The first outbreak occurred in the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire) in a village near the Ebola River, which gave the virus its name. The second outbreak occurred in what is now South Sudan, approximately 500 miles (850 km) away. More information on Ebola.
Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) - Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is an illness caused by a virus (more specifically, a coronavirus) called Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV). Most MERS patients developed severe respiratory illness with symptoms of fever, cough and shortness of breath. About 3 or 4 out of every 10 patients reported with MERS have died. More information on MERS.
Norovirus Illness - Norovirus is the leading cause of foodborne illness in the United States. It causes 58% of foodborne illnesses and is the leading cause of vomiting and diarrhea from acute gastroenteritis (inflammation of the stomach and intestines) among people of all ages. It is the leading cause of acute gastroenteritis among U.S. children less than 5 years of age who seek medical care. Norovirus is responsible for nearly 1 million pediatric medical care visits annually. More information on Norovirus Norovirus Toolkit.
Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) - Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is an emerging, sometimes fatal, respiratory illness. The first identified cases occurred in China in late 2002, and the disease has now spread throughout the world. Although SARS is believed to be caused by a virus, the specific agent has not been identified, and there is not yet any laboratory or other test that can definitively identify cases. Suspected SARS cases in the United States have involved individuals returning from travel to Asia and health care workers and other contacts of those patients. More information on SARS
Swine Influenza - Swine Flu is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza viruses that regularly cause outbreaks of influenza in pigs. Influenza viruses that commonly circulate in swine are called “swine influenza viruses” or “swine flu viruses.” Like human influenza viruses, there are different subtypes and strains of swine influenza viruses. The main swine influenza viruses circulating in U.S. pigs in recent years have been, swine triple reassortant (tr) H1N1 influenza virus, trH3N2 virus, and trH1N2 virus. More information on Swine Influenza. Information on Past Influenza Pandemics.
Tuberculosis (TB) - According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2008, nearly one-third of the world's population is infected with Tuberculosis (TB), which kills almost 1.6 million people per year. TB is now the second most common cause of death from infectious disease in the world after human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS). More information on Tuberculosis.
Note: Although we are emphasizing preparedness and response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the information in this course may also be valuable in preparing and responding to other infectious disease outbreaks, epidemics, and pandemics.
To reduce the long-term impact of infectious disease outbreak conditions on businesses, workers, customers, and the public, it is important for all employers to implement an Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response (IDPR) Plan.
Lack of continuity planning can result in a cascade of failures as employers attempt to address challenges of COVID-19 with insufficient resources and workers who might not be adequately trained for jobs they may have to perform under pandemic conditions.
Click on the button below to a list of links to more information on COVID-19/Wuhan Flu.
Click on the buttons below to see a video giving you an overview of COVID-19 and a short video on prevention methods.
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"COVID-19" is shorthand for COronaVIrus Disease 2019. It is a respiratory disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. It has spread from China to many other countries around the world, including the United States. Because COVID-19 has reached the level of world-wide pandemic, it can affect all aspects of daily life, including travel, trade, tourism, food supplies, and financial markets.
Infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, can cause illness ranging from mild to severe and, in some cases, can be fatal.
According to the CDC, symptoms of COVID-19 may appear in as few as 2 days or as long as 14 days after exposure.
Click on the buttons below to learn more about the symptoms of COVID-19.
Basically, COVID-19 spreads like the flu. Although the first human cases of COVID-19 likely resulted from exposure to infected animals, infected people can spread SARS-CoV-2 to other people.
The virus is thought to spread mainly from person- to-person, including:
It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object infected with SARS-CoV-2 and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the primary way the virus spreads.
People are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (i.e., experiencing fever, cough, and/or shortness of breath). Some spread might be possible before people show symptoms; there have been reports of this type of asymptomatic transmission with this new coronavirus, but this is also not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.
Although the United States has implemented public health measures to limit the spread of the virus, it is likely that some person-to-person transmission will continue to occur.
This CDC website provides the latest information about COVID-19.
Click on the buttons below to see videos on the spread of COVID-19 and related topics.
Similar to viral infections, COVID-19 has the potential to cause extensive outbreaks. Under conditions associated with widespread person-to- person spread, multiple areas of the United States and other countries may see impacts at the same time. In the absence of a vaccine, an outbreak may also be an extended event. As a result, workplaces may experience:
Click on the button below to see a video about COVID-19 good hygiene practices.
This section describes basic steps that every employer can take to reduce the risk of worker exposure to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in their workplace. Later sections of this guidance—including those focusing on jobs classified as having low, medium, high, and very high exposure risks— provide specific recommendations for employers and workers within specific risk categories.
The IDPR Plan is an important component of a company's Business Continuity Plan. If your company does not yet have an IDPR Plan, don't wait: develop a plan that can help guide protective actions against COVID-19 and other infectious diseases.
Stay abreast of guidance from federal, state, local, tribal, and/or territorial health agencies, and consider how to incorporate those recommendations and resources into workplace-specific plans.
Plans should consider and address the level(s) of risk associated with various worksites and job tasks workers perform at those sites.
Click on the button below to see the considerations when developing the IDPR Plan.
Follow federal and state, local, tribal, and/or territorial (SLTT) recommendations regarding development of contingency plans for situations that may arise as a result of outbreaks, such as:
Plans should also consider and address the other steps that employers can take to reduce the risk of worker exposure to SARS-CoV-2 in their workplace, described in the following sections.
When developing the IDPR Plan, develop policies and procedures that emphasize basic infection prevention measures. As appropriate, all employers should give information and training on good hygiene and infection control practices, including:
Click the button to watch an interesting video on the transmission and control of infectious diseases.
Develop effective policies and procedures to identify and isolate employees and others who may be infected and showing symptoms. Policies and procedures include the following:
Click on the buttons below to see a video on protective policies in the workplace.
Develop flexible IDPR Plan policies for employees. Include the following:
After the IDPR Plan has been developed, the work is not yet done. You can help make sure the plan is effective by taking the following actions:
Click on the buttons below to see links to Sample Plans and a video to learn about preventive measures.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has adopted policies for enforcing OSHA's requirements with respect to coronavirus as economies reopen in states throughout the country.
As states begin reopening their economies, OSHA has issued two primary enforcement policies to ensure employers are taking action to protect their employees.
OSHA will enforce the recordkeeping requirements of 29 CFR 1904 for employee coronavirus illnesses for all employers. Given the nature of the disease and community spread, however, in many instances it remains difficult to determine whether a coronavirus illness is work-related, especially when an employee has experienced potential exposure both in and out of the workplace. OSHA’s guidance emphasizes that employers must make reasonable efforts to ascertain whether a particular case of coronavirus is work-related.
Recording a coronavirus illness does not mean that the employer has violated any OSHA standard. Employers with 10 or fewer employees and certain employers in low hazard industries have no recording obligations; they need only report work-related coronavirus illnesses that result in a fatality or an employee’s in-patient hospitalization, amputation, or loss of an eye.
For more information see OSHA's COVID-19 webpage.
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