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by the NFCC


Infectious diseases

Hazard Knowledge

Infectious diseases are caused by pathogenic microorganisms, such as bacteria, viruses, parasites or fungi; the diseases can be spread, directly or indirectly, from one person to another. Zoonotic diseases are infectious diseases of animals that can cause disease when transmitted to humans.

If biological hazards (biohazards) are or may be present, the incident should be reclassified as a hazardous materials incident; the guidance for Hazardous materials should be applied.

Operational activity may bring personnel into contact with infectious diseases, including:  

  • Bacterial infection including: 
    • Gastrointestinal diseases 
    • Tetanus 
  • Viral infection including: 
    • Blood borne viruses such as HIV and hepatitis  
    • Rabies 
  • Zoonoses including:  
    • Leptospirosis (Weil’s disease) 
    • Lyme disease 

Diseases and infections may be carried by: 

  • Body fluids  
  • Animals, including their faeces and urine 
  • Insects 
  • Contaminated water including:  
    • Stagnant water 
    • Sewage 
    • Flood water 

Transmission of infectious diseases while working can occur via:

  • Inhalation, for example by:
    • Breathing in infectious aerosols or droplets, including respiratory discharges or contaminated dust or spray
  • Absorption, for example by:
    • Blood or other body fluids entering the body via the eye or other mucous membranes
    • Microorganisms directly or indirectly entering the body via broken skin
  • Ingestion, for example by:
    • Putting contaminated hands, fingers, or objects such as pens or cigarettes into the mouth
  • Injection, for example by:
    • A skin-penetrating injury from a contaminated needle or other sharp object
    • A bite or sting from an infected animal or insect

For more information refer to GOV.UK: Health protection - Infectious diseases