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Friday, July 28, 2017

Diarrhea, the newest occupational risk?

I generally start each blog with a little story. Often times the story may be personal and something that can lead nicely into the main topic of the blog.  This week after reading the article that is serving as the basis for the blog topic and deciding upon the title, I knew if I shared a personal story I would really have tipped the scales of TOO much information.   I’m sure each of you can think of a situation where you’ve been hit by diarrhea.  You may even recall from childhood a certain song dedicated to the topic of diarrhea.  There are a few different renditions and I think in an attempt to be mature I’ll let you google “Diarrhea Song” on your own.

So why the talk of diarrhea?  Well an investigation report was released by the CDC last week about a Salmonella outbreak linked to microbiology laboratories which infected a total of 24 people in 16 states between March and June this year.  Of the 24 confirmed cases, 6 people were hospitalized, but no deaths have been reported.  The infections occurred in clinical, commercial, college and university microbiology laboratories where the investigation revealed that several of the people infected in the outbreak reported risky behaviors, such as not wearing gloves, not washing hands and using writing utensils or notebooks outside the laboratory. 

As a result of this latest outbreak, the CDC has released a new set of guidelines to be used when working in laboratories.  Some of the key recommendations include not bringing home items used in the lab; following proper biosafety training; wearing gloves, a lab coat or other protective garments; actively washing your hands; and avoiding touching your face or body while in the lab.  Having worked in a lab setting and being responsible for the technical service team and sample reception, I would also say a key recommendation should be not to store your lunch, snacks or drinks in the same fridge that samples are stored…..

The Salmonella typhimurium strain identified in this outbreak was also linked to infections in microbiology labs in 2011 where 109 people infected including 2 children of an infected student and 2014 where 41 people infected.   The long and the short, is it seems to take about 3 years for lab staff to forget that outbreaks and diarrhea associated with Salmonella can be an occupational risk.  This goes to show that biosecurity measures cannot be underestimated.  In a lab setting, once the crisis is over we cannot simply fall back into our old habits over time. Biosecurity measures were designed for one very specific reason – to protect us as we work with potentially infectious pathogens.  This is our health we are talking about.  Sure an infection with Salmonella and the associated diarrhea is a nuisance and some may just shrug it off as a fact of life.  Would we’d be so cavalier if we were talking about Ebola?

Check back with me in 2020 and let’s see if we can find another outbreak!

Bugging Off!


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