NIOSH logo and tagline

Emergency Responders: NIOSH Seeks Comment on Proposed List of Diseases That May Pose Risks


December 13, 2010
NIOSH Update:

Contact: Fred Blosser (202) 245-0645

A notice today invites public comments to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) on a proposed list of infectious diseases that may pose life-threatening health risks to emergency response employees through bloodborne or airborne transmission.

The notice also asks for comment on proposed guidelines describing the circumstances in which emergency response employees may be exposed to such diseases, and proposed guidelines describing the manner in which medical facilities should determine whether emergency response employees have been exposed in the line of duty.

The notice was issued pursuant to the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act of 2009. The notice appears in the Federal Register at (Federal Register, December 13, 2010, Vol. 75, No. 238, pp. 77642-77644).

“In saving the lives of others, emergency response employees themselves should not be exposed to life-threatening health risks,” said NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D. “We encourage comment on today’s notice to help protect responders from exposures to serious, transmissible diseases in the line of duty.”

The proposed list includes three categories of potentially life-threatening infectious diseases. The categories are based on the means through which emergency responders may be exposed:

  • Potentially life-threatening infectious diseases routinely transmitted by contact or body-
    fluid exposures: hepatitis B, hepatitis C, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection,
    rabies, and vaccinia.
  • Potentially life-threatening infectious diseases routinely transmitted through aerosolized
    airborne means: measles, tuberculosis, and varicella disease.
  • Potentially life-threatening infectious diseases routinely transmitted through aerosolized
    droplet means: avian influenza, diphtheria, meningococcal disease, mumps, pneumonic
    plague, rubella, SARS-CoV, smallpox, and viral hemorrhagic fevers.

Comments should be submitted for receipt by February 11, 2011. Comments by email should be submitted to NIOSH Docket Officer, Include “Infectious Diseases” and “42 U.S.C. 300ff-131” in the subject line of the message. Comments by mail should be submitted to the NIOSH Docket Office, Robert A. Taft Laboratories, MS-C34, 4676 Columbia Parkway, Cincinnati, OH 45226. Comments also may be sent by Internet to the Federal e-rulemaking portal, http:// Follow the instructions there for submitting comments.

Further information is available from James Spahr, Associate Director, Emergency Preparedness & Response, NIOSH, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1600 Clifton Road, N.E., Mailstop E20, Atlanta, Ga. 30333; tel. (404) 498-6185.

NIOSH is the federal agency that conducts research and makes recommendations for preventing work-related injuries and illnesses. It was created under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 and is part of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More information on NIOSH can be found at