Communicable Disease and the Fire Service

Issue 12 and Volume 160.

BY DEREK WILLIAMS Since my article on Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureaus (MRSA) was published in the December 2006 issue of Fire Engineering,1 I have been overwhelmed with e-mails containing questions and comments not just about MRSA but about communicable diseases in general and their effects on firefighters. Firefighters are at high risk for most communicable diseases. According to a study by the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) in 2000, one out of every 50 firefighters was exposed to a communicable disease.2 The reasons we are at such high risk are varied: When we treat patients, we almost never know their infectious disease status. We are commonly exposed to blood and body fluids as part of our jobs. We are commonly placed in hazardous conditions where cuts, abrasions, and lacerations can cause open wounds for routes of infection. We tend to disregard our own safety at times to “save others,” thus…

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