Occupational infectious diseases remain an important challenge, even in industrialized countries where there has been a dramatic decline in the morbidity and mortality associated with infectious disease. Occupational diseases are contracted through employment , and many infectious diseases are associated with transmission in the occupational setting. Occurrences of some diseases are strongly associated with certain types of workers (eg, zoonoses in animal handlers). Other diseases occur most often in the general population but also can be acquired at work (eg, influenza, tuberculosis). Occupational infectious diseases are an important cause of morbidity and occasional mortality in workers [2-4]. Many emerging problems with infectious diseases have a great impact on the workplace. The HIV pandemic, which affects approximately 40 million people worldwide , and global increases in tuberculosis (TB), which affects about one third of the world's population , have caused great concerns for healthcare workers. The anthrax attacks of 2001 heightened concerns about the impact of biologic warfare on non-healthcare personnel, such as postal workers. Emerging vector-borne diseases, such as Lyme disease and West Nile virus infection, have been a concern for outdoor workers. Despite the persisting threat of occupational infectious disease, opportunities exist to prevent disease. Many factors contribute to the transmission of infectious diseases in the workplace. Unsafe work practices, overcrowding, inadequate ventilation or plumbing, and unavailability or misuse of personal protective equipment can contribute to acquisition of infection. Many prevention strategies may be applicable in the workplace, such as administrative interventions, engineering controls, protective equipment, medical screening and surveillance, and education. TB prevention in hospitals demonstrates the effectiveness of using multiple preventive modalities to stop the transmission of infectious diseases in the workplace [7,8]. Occupational infectious diseases continue to be an important and timely subject. Prevention of familiar and emerging diseases remain important challenges.
David N. Weissman, MD, CDC, NIOSH, HELD-ASB, Mailstop L-4218, 1095 Willowdale Road, Morgantown, WV 26505, USA