While you save lives and work to improve the health of others, who will have your back? Does your employer prioritize employee safety, or are you exposed to infectious diseases without the necessary personal protective equipment? The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health requires employers to inform workers of the known hazards they may encounter and provide safety training and PPE to keep them safe.
Infectious diseases threaten everybody in the health care industry, including nurses, physicians, clinical lab workers, technicians, first responders, social workers and more. Whether you work in a nursing care facility, hospital, outpatient clinic, medical or dental offices, emergency response or ambulatory care center, infectious agents will always be there to threaten your safety. There are three primary ways in which the transmission of infectious diseases occur. Learning about them will lower the risk for infections.
Some infectious agents can remain infective for considerable periods while they are airborne as droplet nuclei and minuscule particles. This is how they threaten you:
- Air currents can carry the small infectious particles and droplet nuclei over significant distances.
- The infectious agents enter your body when you inhale the airborne particles, even if you are not face to face with the infected individual.
- Only some diseases can spread in this way, and you will only be at risk if you are susceptible or if you have a compromised immune system.
- Tuberculosis bacteria and the measles virus are two of the most common disease spread through inhalation of airborne infectious particles.
Droplets that contain infectious agents are too heavy to remain airborne for long periods or travel long distances. The following circumstances can expose you to this type of transmission:
- Infectious agent are present when infected individuals sneeze, cough or even talk.
- If you perform or are present during medical procedures like endotracheal intubation or suctioning, you will be at risk of infection via droplets.
- However, infection only occurs when the droplets make direct contact with mucous containing surfaces, such as your mouth, nose or eyes — again, only if you as susceptible.
- Two types of transmission via droplets are the influenza virus and Bordetella pertussis, which causes whooping cough.
Contact is another means of spreading infectious agents, subdivided into the following categories:
- Direct contact, such as touching an infected individual with your bare skin
- Indirect contact occurs when you touch items contaminated by an infected person. Examples include equipment or instruments used in patient care, doorknobs, examination tables and bed rails.
- Vancomycin-resistant enterococcus (VRE) and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) are two of the most prevalent diseases to spread through contact.
To protect yourself from these infectious agents, it is crucial always to pause and make sure you don the necessary personal protective equipment before rushing to the aid of anybody. Always hope for the best but expect the worst because anyone to whose aid you rush could potentially have a dangerous disease.
Your workers’ compensation rights
The California workers’ compensation insurance system will have your back if you should contract an infectious disease in the line of duty. Unlike injuries like fractured bones, occupational diseases have no particular start date, often making it difficult to prove that it is work-related. This is where the skills of an experienced workers’ compensation attorney come in. A lawyer can provide invaluable support and guidance throughout the benefits claims process in pursuit of maximum compensation.