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Coccidioidomycosis: An Enduring Work-Related Disease

Categories: Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing, Construction, Emergency Response/Public Sector, Oil and Gas, Outdoor Work, Personal Protective Equipment, Respiratory Health

A prison located in an arid, hyperendemic area of the Central Valley of California. There is little natural vegetation on the grounds and in the surrounding areas. Photograph by NIOSH.

Background

Coccidioidomycosis, also known as Valley Fever, is a disease caused by the fungus Coccidioides. The fungus grows in the soil in very dry areas. Coccidioidomycosis is endemic (native and common) in the southwestern United States, the Central Valley of California, Mexico, and parts of Central and South America [CDC 2013a]. About 150,000 new infections have been estimated to occur each year in the United States [Galgiani et al. 2005] but only about 22,000 cases were reported in 2011 in the United States. This suggests that the disease is greatly underreported [CDC 2013b]. The apparent incidence of reported coccidioidomycosis increased from 1998 to 2011, from 5.3 cases per 100,000 population in the endemic area (Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah) in 1998 to 42.6 cases per 100,000 in 2011, although concern has been expressed that some of this increase might be related to changes in surveillance definitions, laboratory practices, and increased awareness leading to increased testing for the disease [CDC 2013b].

The History and Future of NIOSH Morgantown

Categories: Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing, Emergency Response/Public Sector, Mining, Motor Vehicle Safety, Nanotechnology, Personal Protective Equipment, Respiratory Health, Safety and Health Data, Violence

The state-of-the-art NIOSH Morgantown facility opened in 1996.

To commemorate Workers Memorial Day, NIOSH is hosting a week of blogs with a new post each day ending on Monday, April 28th.  To start us off, we will highlight the past and look to the future with a retrospective on the history of occupational safety and health research and NIOSH in Morgantown, West Virginia.   

Occupational safety and health research has deep roots in Morgantown. In 1967, the Appalachian Laboratory for Occupational Respiratory Diseases (ALFORD) was created within the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) to focus on a prominent problem of the Appalachian occupational environment–”black lung disease” in coal miners. ALFORD’s director was Dr. W. Keith Morgan. The lab was initially housed in the West Virginia University (WVU) Health Sciences Center, and its research focused on detecting black lung disease and assessing its physiological effects. In 1969, work began on a new facility for ALFORD on 4.6 acres of land donated by WVU to PHS. In the same year, the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969 (Coal Act) was passed. The Coal Act mandated a range of measures to protect coal miners, including limits on coal mine dust exposures and a program providing medical screening with chest radiographs to coal miners at operators’ expense.

Do We Need to Challenge Respirator Filters With Biological Aerosols?

Categories: Personal Protective Equipment, Respiratory Health

Figure 1. Typical particle sizes found in various workplace and environmental aerosols. The dashed green line represents the 0.3 um mass median aerodynamic diameter (MMAD) sodium chloride aerosol used by NIOSH for respirator filter testing of N95-class air purifying respirators. Note: adapted from various sources.(16-18)

The purpose of this NIOSH Science Blog is to explain what is currently known about an important aspect of respirator filtration.  For decades, respirator researchers have been asked whether filters need to be tested with aerosols similar to those encountered in the environment (Figure 1).  Common sense suggests that viruses or bacteria are collected differently from engineered nanoparticles, silica dusts, oil mists or other types of workplace aerosols.

Making a Splash: Three Fishermen Saved by Personal Flotation Devices!

Categories: Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing, Personal Protective Equipment

The crew of the salmon setnet skiff Paul Revere pose on the shore of Bristol Bay with the inflatable PFDS that saved their lives when their boat capsized.

On the night of June 26, 2010 the fishing vessel Paul Revere, a salmon setnet skiff, capsized while setting their gear in preparation for the start of fishing season. The skipper and her two crew members were thrown in the waters of Bristol Bay near South Naknek, AK. The crew spent two harrowing hours drifting with the current and trying to signal for help. Eventually they were able to rescue themselves by catching onto a setnet line and pulling themselves hand over hand toward shore. The skipper and her crew were wearing inflatable PFDs as part of their standard work gear.

They attribute their survival to the flotation and peace of mind provided by these devices. Their story shows how effective PFDs can be in preventing fatalities among commercial fishermen. We know the details of this story only because the PFDs used by the crew allowed them to survive much longer in the water than they would have without them. Without their PFDs, the fishermen most certainly would have succumbed to the effects of cold water immersion and drowned.

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