Avian flu

The flu, or influenza, takes many forms. Some, such as avian flu, get passed along when people come into contact with infected birds. Avian influenza can be life-threatening. All workers, including those with weakened immune systems, are at risk.

Who is at risk?

Some strains of avian flu can spread from birds to people. People who are around infected birds can inhale the virus and become ill. Examples of workers who could be at increased risk include:

  • Poultry agriculture workers
  • Veterinarians
  • Workers whose jobs involve containing and resolving avian flu outbreaks
  • Pet store workers

How to reduce the risks

If workers could be exposed to avian influenza, the employer must develop and implement an exposure control plan (ECP). This plan must identify the workers at risk of exposure and the controls that are required to protect those workers. These will be unique to each worksite and work environment. Some possible control measures are listed here.

  1. 1

    Engineering controls

    This is the most effective type of control. Engineering controls involve making physical modifications to control the hazard or reduce exposure. Some questions to consider:

    • Can containment facilities be constructed to exclude contact with wild birds?
    • Have biosecurity measures been put in place to prevent the movement of disease-causing agents to and from agricultural operations?
  2. 2

    Administrative controls

    This type of control involves changing work practices and policies. Some questions to consider:

    • Have workers been trained to recognize the symptoms of avian influenza in their birds?
    • Is frequent handwashing encouraged?
    • Are workers encouraged not to come to work when they are sick?
    • Have workers been encouraged to get the seasonal flu vaccination?
  3. 3

    Personal protective equipment (PPE)

    This is the least effective type of control. When used, there must always be at least one other control in place as well. Some questions to consider: