CDC gives guidance on diagnostic lab safety

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A guide published in January is intended to reduce injuries and infections that occur during work in human and veterinary diagnostic laboratories.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention document "Guidelines for safe work practices in human and animal medical diagnostic laboratories" was published Jan. 6 as a supplement to the agency's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The guide was produced by a panel with members from the CDC, university diagnostic laboratories, and private medical laboratories. It is available at through the "Supplements" section and under Vol. 61.

"Whether the patients are humans or animals and whether laboratorians work in microbiology or elsewhere in the laboratory, the human and animal diagnostic laboratory is a challenging environment," the publication states. "The more that laboratorians become aware of and adhere to recommended, science-based safety precautions, the lower the risk."

The document recommends creation of a "culture of safety" and includes guidance on topics such as biological safety cabinet use and inspection; appropriate disinfectant use; the need for negative airflow in laboratories; and the need for centralized surveillance and reporting of laboratory-related incidents, exposures, injuries, and infections.

The guide notes that laboratory employees are at higher risk than the general public of infection with some pathogens. Hepatitis B, for example, is the most frequent laboratory-acquired viral infection, and it affects 3.5 to 4.6 of every 1,000 laboratory workers, a rate two to four times that of the rest of the population, the guide states.

"Any laboratorian who collects or handles tubes of blood is vulnerable," the guide states.