April 2, 2020

NIOSH: COVID-19 Among Potentially Life-Threatening Infectious Diseases for Emergency Responders

NIOSH has added COVID-19, the disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), to its list of potentially life-threatening infectious diseases to which emergency response employees (EREs) may be exposed. The updated list and its accompanying guidelines, which were first published in the Federal Register in 2011, have been republished in a document available from NIOSH’s website. NIOSH’s new publication includes an added definition of emergency response employees, which the agency describes as firefighters, law enforcement officers, paramedics, emergency medical technicians, funeral service practitioners, and other individuals who respond to emergencies in affected geographic areas while on the job.

NIOSH publishes the list and companion guidelines in accordance with the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act of 2009, which addresses notification procedures and requirements for medical facilities regarding exposure of EREs to potentially life-threatening infectious diseases. NIOSH’s guidelines describe ways employees may be exposed to these diseases and how medical facilities should make determinations about exposures.

COVID-19 is an infectious disease that is primarily transmitted between people through respiratory droplets and contact routes, according to the World Health Organization. Other diseases on NIOSH’s list that are routinely transmitted through airborne or aerosolized means include SARS-associated coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and novel influenza A viruses.