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Disease

Cleanliness Helps Prevent Foodborne Illness

Spring has long been the time of year for annual cleaning projects around homes and offices. However, when it comes to safe food handling, everything that comes in contact with food must be kept clean all year long.

Food that is mishandled or not stored properly can lead to foodborne illness. Follow a “Be Food Safe” policy. Being food safe means preventing foodborne illness by following four easy steps:

  1. Clean – wash your hands and surfaces often and disinfect with food-safe Clorox wipes or Lysol.

  2. Separate – don’t cross contaminate. Keep food covered in airtight containers or sealants.

  3. Cook – Cook all foods to proper temperatures and don’t let them stay out in the open air too long.

  4. Chill – Refrigerate promptly.

Cleanliness is a major factor in preventing foodborne illness. Even with food safety inspections and monitoring, the consumer’s role is to make sure food is handled safely after it is purchased. Everything that touches food should be clean. Here are some suggested steps to take to help prevent foodborne illnesses:

  • Wash your hands with warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds

    • Before and after handling food

    • After using the bathroom

    • After changing a diaper

    • After handling pets

    • After tending to a sick person

    • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing

    • After handling uncooked eggs, meat, fruits and vegetables

If your hands have any kind of skin abrasion or infection, always use clean disposable gloves. Thoroughly wash with hot soapy water any surfaces that have been in contact with raw meat, poultry, fish, or eggs. Use disposable paper towels to clean surfaces, not dishcloths or sponges. Spray or wipe surfaces with disinfectant after cleaning them.

Keep cutting boards clean, wash them with hot soapy water after each use, and then rinse and let air dry. Don’t use the same platter or utensils that held raw meat to serve the cooked product. When using a food thermometer always thoroughly wash it after each use with hot soapy water. Remember to keep pets, household cleaners, and other chemicals away from food and food preparatory stations. Keep refrigerators clean and sanitized; remove old food frequently. When eating out, eat at reputable restaurants and establishments. Avoid eating foods openly exposed in convenience stores like hotdogs, sausages, and taquitos – there are lots of germs floating around in those places.

Taking some time to “be food safe” could keep you and your co-workers or family from experiencing a very uncomfortable foodborne illness. Bon Appetit!

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Bloodborne Pathogens - Protecting Workers

Every year municipalities, just like any other business, must train their employees about bloodborne pathogens. The following information can assist you in keeping your employees from contracting a bloodborne illness.

Bloodborne pathogens are infectious micro-organisms in human blood that include, but are not limited to, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV. The can infect a healthy body through contact with blood and other body fluids, secretions, and excretions (except sweat). In many cases, contact with infected fluids happens via used needles or other contaminated sharp objects that have not been properly disposed of or properly cleaned and disinfected.

Exposure Control Plan

All organizations where employees could be exposed to blood or other potentially infectious materials (OPIM) must follow the bloodborne pathogens standard. Employers are responsible for determining which jobs, tasks, and procedures involve an occupational exposure. According to OSHA standards, occupational exposure is a “reasonably anticipated skin, eye, mucous membrane, or parenteral contact with blood or OPIM that may result from performance of an employee’s duties.” If your workplace carries a risk of occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens, you are required to develop an exposure control plan to minimize or eliminate occupational exposures. Start by identifying all the hazards workers may be exposed to. This exposure determination needs to contain a list of jobs with potential exposure and list of procedures that could result in worker exposure. Based on this determination, you should design and implement adequate safety controls using training, providing PPE, and administrative or engineering controls.

Implementing Controls

Elimination of hazards is not feasible in some workplaces. In these situations, it is important to follow basic controls. These controls can include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Use “universal precautions”; treat all blood or OPIMs as if they were infected.

  • Implement safe practice controls; update and redesign them as needed.

  • Practice safe decontamination; thoroughly wash and disinfect.

  • Provide personal protective equipment such as gloves, masks, and specialized clothing if needed. Remember employers are responsible for repairing or replacing PPE when required.

  • Implement engineering controls such as sharps disposal containers or needleless systems.

  • Ensure that hepatitis B immunizations are available to all workers, that they have been properly trained and understand how they could be exposed, that they know how to protect themselves from exposure, and that they know what to do if they have potentially been exposed.

  • Use warning labels and signs on containers and in areas where contaminated materials may be stored.

  • Keep and update worker medical and training records regularly.

  • Keep and update a sharps injury log.

Other Employer Responsibilities

After any exposure incident, arrange for a post-exposure medical evaluation and make it available to affected workers. Document the reasons for exposure and test the source individual (the person whose blood or body fluids contacted the worker) for hepatitis B or hepatitis C or HIV infections. Employers are also responsible for offering the exposed worker post-exposure prophylaxis and counseling.

The municipal exposure control plan must be reviewed and updated annually to reflect any workplace changes that might affect safe work procedures. Employers should also make changes to engineering and practice controls based on input from workers.

Workers must receive regular training that covers all aspects of the exposure control plan including who to report incidents to and how to decontaminate after a potential exposure. All new hires must be trained concerning how they could be exposed in their work environment and what to do if they think they have been exposed.

Although engineering controls are the primary method of reducing exposure, behavioral training also aims to achieve this goal by changing how workers perform tasks. When providing training, consider a program that deals with the human factors. This will increase employee self-awareness and help workers see how situations like fatigue and complacency may put them, their co-workers, or families at greater risk of contracting an illness from a bloodborne pathogen. Safety needs to be addressed from all possible angles to provide workers with the best protection available.

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Airborne Diseases

You can catch some diseases simply by breathing. These are called airborne diseases. Airborne diseases can spread when an infected person coughs, sneezes, laughs, or even talks, spewing nasal and throat secretions into the air in particles of moisture. These particles take flight and land on people or surfaces, contaminating them. When you breathe airborne organisms in, they take up residence inside you. You also can pick up viruses or bacteria when you touch an infected surface and then touch your eyes, nose, or mouth. Because these diseases travel in the air, they are hard to control.

Some of the airborne diseases contracted by millions of people each year are: The Common Cold, Influenza, Chickenpox, Mumps, Measles, Whooping Cough, Tuberculosis, and Diphtheria.

Treatment for Common Airborne Diseases

For most airborne diseases the best treatment is getting plenty of rest and fluids and letting the illness run its course. Some diseases like chickenpox have no targeted treatment, but medications and other supportive care can help relieve symptoms.

Some, such as flu, can be treated with antiviral drugs. Treatment for infants with whooping cough can include antibiotics, but hospitalization is often needed. There are drugs to treat and cure tuberculosis, although some strains of TB are drug resistant. Failure to complete a course of medication can lead to drug resistance and a return of the illness. If caught early enough diphtheria can be successfully treated with antitoxins and antibiotics.

With our world being so easily accessed today with air travel, airborne disease can potentially affect everyone in a brief period of time. Diseases are spread easily in close quarters such as airplanes, schools, malls, and church gatherings. Take precautions: get plenty of rest, exercise, keep your immune system up by using supplemental vitamins, and avoid large populated areas when there is a known outbreak of disease. If you become ill, take some time off from work so you don’t spread the illness.

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Insect Borne Illness

What are Insect Borne Illnesses?

Insect borne diseases are viral or bacterial illnesses contracted from insect (bug) bites. The most common insects that pass on disease are mosquitos, fleas, and ticks. Some common diseases known to be transmitted by insects are Zika virus, Yellow Fever, and Malaria from mosquitos, and Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever from ticks (There are approximately 10 different diseases which can be contracted from a tick bite.)

Common Symptoms of Insect Borne Illnesses:

  • Fever 

  • Sore muscles    

  • Nausea    

  • Headache

  • Chills      

  • Skin rash          

  • Stomach pain

More serious symptoms might include:

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Swelling/closing of the throat     

  • Chest pain    

  • Vomiting

  • Swelling of lips, tongue, face    

  • Racing heartbeat        

  • Dizziness

How are Insect Borne Illnesses Diagnosed?

Your doctor can typically diagnose an insect borne illness with a physical exam, a review of symptoms, and checking recent travel destinations. Lab tests (blood and urine) can diagnose certain insect borne diseases.

How to Avoid or Prevent Insect-borne Illnesses

  • Stay out of tall grass and bushes

  • Dress in long pants and shirts and wear a hat; tuck pants legs into your boots or socks

  • Wear light colored clothing, which makes it easier to spot crawling insects

  • Use bug spray that contains at least 10% DEET

  • Examine your skin and scalp after being outside, checking for bugs or bites

  • Always shower using plenty of soap after being outdoors

Insect Borne Illness Treatment

As soon as you recognize a bite, clean it with soap and water. Pat it dry and apply rubbing alcohol to the bite. If bitten by a tick, remove the tick before cleaning the area. Use tweezers to slowly pull it off your skin. Be careful not to leave any part of the tick in/on your skin. Dispose of the tick. Wash your hands and the bite area with soap and water and then wipe with alcohol. Apply an over-the-counter antibiotic cream to the bite area.

If you have any of the symptoms listed above, see a doctor. If you start having flu-like symptoms 3-10 days after being bitten see a doctor for diagnosis.

Living with Insect Borne Illnesses

Some insect borne illnesses can cause long-term chronic symptoms that affect the quality of life. Lyme disease, for example, can leave you chronically tired and sore. Zika virus can be passed on to a baby and cause microcephaly and an intellectual disability.

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