Guidance for Protecting Workers against Avian Flu

The US Occupational Safety & Health Administration in the Department of Labor
has issued guidance for protecting workers against 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. However, culling must be carried out in a way that
protects workers from exposures to avian influenza virus and therefore reduces
the likelihood of illness or gene swapping or mutation.

Exposure to infected poultry and their feces or dust contaminated with feces
has been associated with human infection; however this is a rare occurrence..
The following summarizes the recommendations that have been developed by the
CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO) because human infections have
occurred in Asia during the current poultry epidemic.

  1. All persons who have been in close contact with the infected animals,
    contact with contaminated surfaces, or after removing gloves, should wash their
    hands frequently. Hand hygiene should consist of washing with soap and water
    for 15-20 seconds or the use of other standard hand-disinfection.

  2. All workers involved in the culling, transport, or disposal of avian
    influenza-infected poultry should be provided with appropriate personal
    protective equipment:

    • Protective clothing capable of being disinfected or disposed, preferably
      coveralls plus an impermeable apron or surgical gowns with long cuffed sleeves
      plus an impermeable apron;
    • Gloves capable of being disinfected or disposed; gloves should be
      carefully removed and discarded or disinfected and hands should be cleaned;
    • Respirators: the minimum recommendation is a disposable particulate
      respirator used as part of a comprehensive respiratory protection program.
      Workers should be fit tested for the model and size respirator they wear and be
      trained to fit-check for facepiece to face seal;
    • Goggles;
    • Boots or protective foot covers that can be disinfected or

  3. Environmental clean up should be carried out in areas of culling, using the
    same protective measures as above.

  4. Unvaccinated workers should receive the current season's influenza vaccine
    to reduce the possibility of dual infection with avian and human influenza

  5. Workers should receive an influenza antiviral drug daily for the duration
    of time during which direct contact with infected poultry or contaminated
    surfaces occurs. The choice of antiviral drug should be based on sensitivity
    testing when possible. In the absence of sensitivity testing, a neuramindase
    inhibitor (oseltamavir) is the first choice since the likelihood is smaller
    that the virus will be resistant to this class of antiviral drugs than to
    amantadine or rimantadine.

  6. Potentially exposed workers should monitor their health for the development
    of fever, respiratory symptoms, and/or conjunctivitis (i.e., eye infections)
    for 1 week after last exposure to avian influenza-infected or exposed birds or
    to potentially avian influenza-contaminated environmental surfaces. Individuals
    who become ill should seek medical care and, prior to arrival, notify their
    health care provider that they may have been exposed to avian influenza.

Further Information

AplusA-online.de - Source: European Agency for Safety and Health at Work