Should You Get a Flu Shot?

September 29, 2008

Expanded age recommendations and an ample supply of influenza vaccine will allow more people to be protected against flu during the upcoming 2008–2009 flu season. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a very contagious respiratory illness that can lead to serious health complications and sometimes death.

In an effort to better protect the public, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now is recommending that all eligible children ages 6 months through 18 years receive the influenza vaccine. Prior to this season, the recommendation was for ages 6 months to 6 years. Immunizing more children against the flu ultimately better protects the entire community against an outbreak of flu. By preventing these children from getting sick, family members also are protected as well as the many other people these children might come in contact with on a daily basis.

Every year in the United States, on average, 5%–20% of the population gets the flu, more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications and about 36,000 people die from it. Some people, such as older people, young children, and people with certain health conditions, are at higher risk for serious flu complications.

In addition to the health impact from flu, the disease also can carry with it huge financial costs for persons who miss work due to their illness, or the illness of a family member.

Vaccine manufacturers are projecting that as many as 143–146 million doses of influenza vaccine will be available for use in the United States this season. This is an all-time high supply of vaccine making it possible for more people than ever to seek protection from the flu. In fact, some vaccine doses already have arrived at doctor’s offices and health clinics.

“The single best way to protect yourself and your family from the flu is to get the flu vaccine,” said Ned Calonge, Chief Medical Officer for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. “More available vaccine means more protection for the most vulnerable people in our communities, such as babies, the elderly, and those with certain health problems.”

The flu season typically peaks in January or February. However, cases may be reported as early as October. People can start receiving the influenza vaccine now and still have immunity through the season, which generally ends in March.

Consumers Advised Not to Consume Products With Melamine Contamination

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Consumer Protection Division on Friday advised consumers not to eat Mr. Brown instant coffee and milk tea products manufactured by Shandong Duqing Inc. and distributed by King Car Food Industrial Co. Ltd. of China or White Rabbit Creamy Candy manufactured by Shanghai Guan Sheng Yuan International Trade Co. Ltd. of China, due to possible contamination with the chemical melamine. Consumers may have purchased these products in Asian markets or from the Internet.

Health officials urged individuals who experience health problems after consuming any of the identified products to contact their health care professional.

The affected Mr. Brown products include:

  • Mandheling Blend Instant Coffee (3-in-1)
  • Arabica Instant Coffee (3-in-1)
  • Blue Mountain Blend Instant Coffee (3-in-1)
  • Caramel Macchiato Instant Coffee (3-in-1)
  • French Vanilla Instant Coffee (3-in-1)
  • Mandheling Blend Instant Coffee (2-in-1)
  • Brown Milk Tea (3-in-1)

To date, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is not aware of any illnesses in the United States stemming from consumption of the products. Food safety authorities worldwide began pulling the products from store shelves early Friday when they were notified of the contamination.

Health officials said melamine is not an approved food additive and artificially increases the proteins of milk and other food products. Eating melamine can lead to kidney stones, kidney disease, urinary tract ulcers, and eye and skin irritations. It also robs infants of much-needed nutrition.

OSHA Publishes an ANPR on Tree Care Operations

OSHA has published an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) addressing tree care operations, including hazards, fatalities, and control measures. OSHA is requesting data, information, and comments on effective measures to control hazards in tree care operations and prevent injuries and fatalities.

"This rulemaking will assist us in determining effective measures to control hazards and prevent employee injuries and fatalities," Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Edwin G. Foulke Jr. said. "Input from the public is important as we proceed in our efforts to protect the safety and health of the men and women working in tree care operations."

The ANPR includes several questions for public comment related to current employer practices, along with tasks, tools, equipment, machines, vehicles, processes, controls, and procedures involved in tree care operations. Additionally, OSHA requests comment on regulatory alternatives to reduce injuries and fatalities, as well as what requirements a standard addressing hazards in this industry should include and the potential costs and benefits of such a standard.

 If your comments do not exceed 10 pages, you may fax them to 202-693-1648. If submitting by mail, hand delivery, or messenger/courier service, send three copies of your comments and attachments to the OSHA Docket Office, Docket No. OSHA-2008-0012, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Ave., N.W., Room N-2625, Washington, D.C. 20210; telephone 202-693-2350. Please include the docket number on all submissions.

Dental Office Faces $76,500 Fine Following Needlestick Injury

Allcare Dental has been cited by OSHA for alleged willful and serious violations of occupational health standards at its Nashua, N.H., dental office after an employee suffered a needlestick injury. The office faces $76,500 in proposed fines.

OSHA's inspection found that the office did not provide the injured employee with no-cost, post-exposure medical evaluation and follow-up, and did not have the blood of the source individual tested, as required under OSHA's bloodborne pathogens standard.

In addition, the office's training program did not include the proper method of removing the capped needle from a syringe, did not explain procedures to be followed in the event of an exposure, and did not provide an opportunity for employees to ask questions about the training. The office's exposure control program also was incomplete and not updated annually. Finally, the office did not use needles with engineered safety devices for user protection.

"OSHA standards spell out the steps that an employer must take to safeguard the health of employees whose duties may involve contact with blood or other potentially infectious materials," said Rosemarie Ohar, OSHA's area director in Concord. "It's vital that these safeguards be effectively implemented, communicated, and kept up-to-date so that employees and managers know how to both minimize hazards and respond in the event of an exposure."

OSHA has issued Allcare one willful citation, with a $63,000 proposed fine, for not testing the source individual's blood for infection even after OSHA notified the office that this was required. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health.

Six serious citations, with $13,500 in proposed fines, have been issued for not providing the post-exposure evaluation and follow-up; not annually reviewing and updating the exposure control program; training deficiencies; and not using sharps with engineered sharps protection. A serious citation is issued when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

$182,500 Penalty for Failing to Fix Previous Lockout-Tagout Violation

OSHA is proposing $182,500 in penalties for four safety violations found at Sloss Industries Fiber Division's manufacturing plant in Birmingham, Ala.

OSHA is proposing a $150,000 fine for the company's failure to perform required annual inspections of its lockout/tagout procedures, which are intended to prevent unintended machine startup. Following an OSHA inspection in 2005, the company had agreed to conduct annual inspections to assure that the procedures were being correctly followed. The agency's inspection in March 2008 revealed that the company was not conducting the required inspections.

The company is receiving a $25,000 penalty for allegedly failing to establish lockout/tagout procedures for all of its machinery and equipment at the plant. OSHA inspectors found that the company had instituted lockout/tagout procedures on less than half of its machinery. Two other serious safety violations, with $7,500 in penalties, are being proposed against the company for exposing employees to electrical hazards.

"After agreeing to correct problems found during our previous inspection, management's admitted failure to make those changes seriously jeopardizes the safety and health of the people working in their plant," said Roberto Sanchez, OSHA's area director in Birmingham.

Sloss Industries, which operates the world's largest slag wool plant, has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to contest the violations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. The worksite was inspected by staff from OSHA's Birmingham Area Office at 950 22nd St., Room 1050; telephone 205-731-1534.

OSHA Interpretations

OSHA recently issued several interpretations:

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