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Course 750 - Introduction to Industrial Hygiene

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Biological Hazards

General

Biological hazards include bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other living organisms that can cause acute and chronic infections by entering the body either directly or through breaks in the skin. Occupations that deal with plants or animals or their products or with food and food processing may expose workers to biological hazards. Laboratory and medical personnel also can be exposed to biological hazards. Any occupations that result in contact with bodily fluids pose a risk to workers from biological hazards.

In occupations where animals are involved, biological hazards are dealt with by preventing and controlling diseases in the animal population as well as properly caring for and handling infected animals. Also, effective personal hygiene, particularly proper attention to minor cuts and scratches especially on the hands and forearms, helps keep worker risks to a minimum.

In occupations where there is potential exposure to biological hazards, workers should practice proper personal hygiene, particularly hand washing. Hospitals should provide proper ventilation, proper personal protective equipment such as gloves and respirators, adequate infectious waste disposal systems, and appropriate controls including isolation in instances of particularly contagious diseases such as tuberculosis.

Biological Agents

Biological agents include bacteria, viruses, fungi, other microorganisms and their associated toxins. They have the ability to adversely affect human health in a variety of ways, ranging from relatively mild, allergic reactions to serious medical conditions, even death. These organisms are widespread in the natural environment; they are found in water, soil, plants, and animals. Because many microbes reproduce rapidly and require minimal resources for survival, they are a potential danger in a wide variety of occupational settings.

This page provides a starting point for technical and regulatory information about some of the most virulent and prevalent biological agents.

Anthrax. Anthrax is an acute infectious disease caused by a spore-forming bacterium called Bacillus anthracis. It is generally acquired following contact with anthrax-infected animals or anthrax-contaminated animal products.

Avian Flu. Avian influenza is a highly contagious disease of birds which is currently epidemic amongst poultry in Asia. Despite the uncertainties, poultry experts agree that immediate culling of infected and exposed birds is the first line of defense for both the protection of human health and the reduction of further losses in the agricultural sector.

Bloodborne Pathogens and Needlestick Prevention. OSHA estimates that 5.6 million workers in the health care industry and related occupations are at risk of occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens, including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), and others.

Botulism. Cases of botulism are usually associated with consumption of preserved foods. However, botulinum toxins are currently among the most common compounds explored by terrorists for use as biological weapons.

Biological Agents (Continued)

biological

Foodborne Disease. Foodborne illnesses are caused by viruses, bacteria, parasites, toxins, metals, and prions (microscopic protein particles). Symptoms range from mild gastroenteritis to life-threatening neurologic, hepatic, and renal syndromes.

Hantavirus. Hantaviruses are transmitted to humans from the dried droppings, urine, or saliva of mice and rats. Animal laboratory workers and persons working in infested buildings are at increased risk to this disease.

Legionnaires' Disease. Legionnaires' disease is a bacterial disease commonly associated with water-based aerosols. It is often the result of poorly maintained air conditioning cooling towers and potable water systems.

Mold. Molds produce and release millions of spores small enough to be air-, water-, or insect-borne which may have negative effects on human health including allergic reactions, asthma, and other respiratory problems.

Plague. The World Health Organization reports 1,000 to 3,000 cases of plague every year. A bioterrorist release of plague could result in a rapid spread of the pneumonic form of the disease, which could have devastating consequences.

Ricin. Ricin is one of the most toxic and easily produced plant toxins. It has been used in the past as a bioterrorist weapon and remains a serious threat.

Biological Agents (Continued)

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is an emerging, sometimes fatal, respiratory illness. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the most recent human cases of SARS were reported in China in April 2004 and there is currently no known transmission anywhere in the world.

Smallpox. Smallpox is a highly contagious disease unique to humans. It is estimated that no more than 20 percent of the population has any immunity from previous vaccination.

Tularemia. Tularemia is also known as "rabbit fever" or "deer fly fever" and is extremely infectious. Relatively few bacteria are required to cause the disease, which is why it is an attractive weapon for use in bioterrorism.

Viral Hemorrhagic Fevers (VHFs). Along with smallpox, anthrax, plague, botulism, and tularemia, hemorrhagic fever viruses are among the six agents identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as the most likely to be used as biological weapons. Many VHFs can cause severe, life-threatening disease with high fatality rates.

Table of Possible Risks and Suggested Measures

Occupations
at Risk

Hazards/Risks

Preventative Measures

Food (cheese, yoghurt, salami) or food additive production, bakeries Molds/yeasts, bacteria and mites cause allergies.
Organic dusts of grain, milk powder or flour contaminated with biological agents.
Toxins such as botulinustoxins or aflatoxins
Closed processes
Avoid aerosol formation
Separate contaminated work areas
Appropriate hygiene measures
Health Care
Several viral and bacterial infections such as HIV, hepatitis, or tuberculosis.
Needlestick injuries
Safe handling of infectious specimens, sharps waste, contaminated linen and other material.
Safe handling and cleaning of blood spills and other body fluids.
Adequate protective equipment, gloves, clothing, glasses.
Appropriate hygienic measures
Laboratories Infections and allergies when handling microorganisms and cell cultures, eg of human tissues.
Accidental spills and needlestick injuries.
Microbiological safety cabinets
Dust and aerosol-reducing measures.
Safe handling and transport of samples.
Appropriate personal protection and hygiene measures.
Decontamination and emergency measures for spills.
Restricted access.
Biosafety labels.
Agriculture
Forestry
Horticulture
Animal food and fodder production
Bacteria, fungi, mites and viruses transmitted from animals, parasites and ticks.
Respiratory problems due to microorganisms and mites in organic dusts of grain, mild powder, flour, spices.
Specific allergic diseases like farmer's lung and bird breeder's lung.
Dust and aerosol-reducing measures.
Avoid contact with contaminated animal or equipment.
Protection against animal bites and stings.
Preservatives for fodder.
Cleaning and maintenance
Metal processing industry
Wood processing industry
Skin problems due to bacteria and bronchial asthma due to Molds/yeasts in circulating fluids in industrial processes such as grinding, pulp factories' and metal and stone cutting fluids.
Local exhaust ventilation
Regular maintenance, filtering and decontamination of fluids and machinery.
Skin protection
Appropriate hygiene measures
Working areas with air conditioning systems and high humidity (eg textile industry, print industry and paper production)
Allergies and respiratory disorders due to Molds/yeasts.
Legionnaires disease
Dust- and aerosol-reducing measures.
Regular maintenance of ventilation, machinery and work areas.
Restrict number of workers.
Maintaining high hot (tap) water temperatures.
Archives, museums, libraries Molds/yeasts and bacteria cause allergies and respiratory disorders
Dust- and aerosol-reduction.
Decontamination
Adequate personal protective equipment
Building and construction industry, processing of natural materials like clay, straw, reed; redevelopment of buildings
Molds and bacteria due to deterioration of building materials
Dust- and aerosol-reducing measures
Appropriate personal protection and hygiene measures

Instructions

Before beginning this quiz, we highly recommend you review the module material. This quiz is designed to allow you to self-check your comprehension of the module content, but only focuses on key concepts and ideas.

Read each question carefully. Select the best answer, even if more than one answer seems possible. When done, click on the "Get Quiz Answers" button. If you do not answer all the questions, you will receive an error message.

Good luck!

1. Biological hazards include _______ that can cause acute and chronic infections.

2. In occupations where there is potential exposure to biological hazards, workers should practice proper personal hygiene, particularly _____.

3. _______ is an acute infectious disease caused by a spore-forming bacterium called Bacillus anthracis.

4. _______ are currently among the most common compounds explored by terrorists for use as biological weapons.

5. _______ are caused by viruses, bacteria, parasites, toxins, metals, and prions (microscopic protein particles). Symptoms range from mild gastroenteritis to life-threatening neurologic, hepatic, and renal syndromes.

6. _______ is one of the most toxic and easily produced plant toxins. It has been used in the past as a bioterrorist weapon and remains a serious threat.

7. _______ is also known as "rabbit fever" or "deer fly fever" and is extremely infectious. Relatively few bacteria are required to cause the disease, which is why it is an attractive weapon for use in bioterrorism.

8. John works in a library. What are some of the risks/hazards he may face at work?


Have a great day!

Important! You will receive an "error" message unless all questions are answered.