Ways To Prevent The Spread of Infectious Diseases At The Workplace

With Covid-19 and viral flu on the rise, it’s time to take preventative measures once again at the workplace. Here are recommendations from a health expert on how to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.

By URLife Team
03 Apr 2023

Dr. Sreekanth Jaganmani is an experienced senior consultant and an internal medicine specialist at Apollo Hospitals, Jubilee Hills, Hyderabad. He is also a visiting professor at Macquarie University Sydney, Australia. Dr. Sreekanth Jaganmani has previously served as the principal investigator for numerous clinical drug trials. One such programme was for Pfizer's, a leading global medical drug manufacturer, 'Azith SR' trial. Now approved by the FDA, this drug has become a ground-breaking treatment method for bacterial infections. Over the span of 25 years, this includes a range of lifestyle diseases like hypertension, diabetes, asthma, etc.


Germs, bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viruses are inevitable parts of our daily life as they are almost everywhere, in our bodies and our environment. Personal items, including mobile phones, handbags, and computers—everything that we touch regularly—is a breeding ground for bacteria. While some bacteria are beneficial for the body, others can cause an infection that spreads quickly. For instance: contagious infections, such as norovirus, viral fever, influenza, and the common cold, are transmitted from person to person directly or indirectly.


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Employees can become increasingly vulnerable to infections in rainy and winter seasons. The prevalence of infection increases when many people sit or work together, in a closed environment. Contagious infections, such as norovirus and the common cold, are often passed from person to person through indirect contact; for example, via an infected person’s environment or personal objects. Let’s take a look at how infections spread via direct and indirect contact.

Through direct contact:

  • Passed on via respiratory droplets such as coughing or sneezing
  • Through body fluids (skin cuts, mucous membrane, or intercourse)
  • Direct contact with the infectious agent (bacteria, fungi, parasite, or virus)
  • During childbirth from mother to foetus (transplacental/perinatal)

Through indirect contact:

  • Biological: Vector or intermediate host (Zika Virus)
  • Mechanical: Plague (transmission of Yersinia Pestis by fleas)
  • Airborne: Tuberculosis


Related story: The New Covid-19 Variants: Know Your Symptoms And Risk


The first wave of Covid-19, a respiratory infection, caused a huge impact on public health. After Covid-19 there has been a resurgence of communicable as well as lifestyle diseases (non-communicable diseases) such as chronic bronchitis, asthma, hypertension, and diabetes which has become a huge challenge for healthcare professionals. Covid-19 has changed the entire picture as it is a viral infection. Directly and indirectly, the pandemic has contributed to a rise in non-communicable diseases. A 2022 study issued in the Ethiopian Journal of Health Science reveals that 1 in 5 persons is at an increased risk of severe COVID-19 due to underlying non-communicable diseases. Patients with certain chronic illnesses are more likely to be affected by Covid-19. More importantly, once patients are infected by the virus, those with chronic illnesses have a much higher chance of having worse clinical outcomes (developing a more severe form of the disease or dying) than an average patient. Hence, the biggest challenge for all medical experts out there is both communicable and non-communicable illnesses.


Related story: Covid-19 Vaccine And Pre-Existing Health Conditions: Everything You Need To Know


Current Scenario of Infectious Diseases In India

In India, the latest influenza A subtype H3N2 is the major cause behind the surge in respiratory diseases. The Press Information Bureau (India) states that there is an active surveillance network that monitors the human influenza virus and SARS-CoV-2 infection in Severe Acute Respiratory Illness and Influenza-like illness cases. A significant rise was found in the cases of influenza A subtype H3N2 and Influenza B Victoria during the first 9 weeks (January 2nd, 2023 to March 5th, 2023).

  • According to the latest data available on IDSP-IHIP (Integrated Health Information Platform), 3038 laboratory-confirmed cases of various subtypes of Influenza, including H3N2 have been reported till 9th March 2023.
  • In the first 9 days of March 2023, subtypes of Influenza including H3N2 stand at 133,412 cases.
  • The corresponding data for admitted cases of severe acute respiratory illness (SARI), 1866 during the first 9 days of March 2023.


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Evaluating the havoc caused by this infectious disease, researchers are looking out for the transmission mechanism of respiratory infections to suggest suitable control measures. A 2022 study in the paper Build Environ revealed that Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) can transmit through the air, and numerous researchers have begun to focus on the transmission of viruses in indoor environments.

The sudden spike in seasonal influenza-like illness, SARS-CoV-2 infection, and other respiratory infections, has once again become the reason for national concern. To ensure maximum protection against infectious diseases in the corporate offices, all employees must follow prevention and control measures.

The World Health Organisation firmly believes that infection prevention and control (IPC) is an effective solution designed to contain the spread of infection in community settings.


Related story: What To Do If You Test Positive For Covid-19?


Preventing Infectious Diseases At Workplaces

Contagious respiratory illnesses (influenza, Covid-19, and H3N2) are caused by flu viruses. Most people with flu symptoms feel feverish/chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, and fatigue (tiredness). Some people may have vomiting and diarrhoea. It is common in children. It is advisable to follow relevant strategies to help control the spread of infectious illnesses in the workplace.

  • Frequent hand washing: Washing hands frequently is an effective way to prevent the transmission of infectious diseases, as mentioned in the paper Frontiers in Public Health, 2022.
  • Wear face masks: Spread of several viral infections can be prevented by wearing masks all the time. According to a 2021 study by Stanford University, masks are effective in reducing the transmission of respiratory illnesses.
  • Refrain from sharing personal items: To control the spread of infectious illnesses, it is better not to share combs, brushes, towels, clothing, razors, toothbrushes, shavers, or other personal items with colleagues.
  • Keep your work desk clean: Declutter your workspace, and disinfect surfaces – such as tables and bench tops – with hot water and phenyl.
  • Update routine vaccinations: Encourage employees to get booster vaccines to prevent the spread of diverse ailments. Every employer should provide vaccinations for different infections the employees might get exposed to.
  • Take antibiotics, as prescribed by your doctor: Antibiotics are generally prescribed for bacterial infections as these are meant to either destroy bacteria or obstruct them from multiplying. Take medications only when a healthcare professional advises.
  • Maintain social distancing protocol in public: Ensure all employees follow social distancing (6-feet apart) from each other.


Related story: Omicron-What To Do If You Have Been Exposed?


Adult Immunisation Program: The Flu Shot

I must emphasise the importance of adult vaccination, mainly the annual flu shots program. Vaccination is one of the most important and effective strategies to defend ourselves from potential viral infections that could turn fatal. If you can tackle a few viral diseases like pneumonia, hepatitis, or common flu in adults, the intensity of the non-communicable diseases can be reduced. This is a way to bridge the gap or reduce the impact of non-communicable diseases.

The World Health Organisation has regulated the guidelines for high-risk populations such as children, adolescents and individuals with other ailments to get primary series and booster doses.


Related story: What Are The Side Effects of The Covid-19 Vaccine


Vaccines recommended for adults are:

Flu vaccine

All adults should get once a year

Pneumococcal vaccine

For adults over 65 years of age

DTP(Diphtheria,Tetanus, Pertussis) vaccine

Adults till 64 years and pregnant (between 27 -36 weeks)


If the individual is younger than 64 years, they may require pneumococcal vaccine in case they are:

1. Chain smokers

2. Suffer from respiratory illnesses (Asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)

3. Live in nursing or old age homes

4. Have leukaemia, kidney failure, AIDs, HIV and multiple myeloma


Related story: Booster Shots, Omicron Symptoms And Vaccination Updates For 2022


Importance of Annual Flu Shots

People with diabetes, respiratory conditions, cardiac issues, hypertension, and cancers, including the paediatric population as they are at high risk of contracting viral influenza flu quickly. The influenza virus tends to mutate as it keeps changing its structure and with each phase, the virus becomes infectious and deadly which can become difficult to deal with. As new strains emerge, various companies and research centres have come forward to create new vaccines based on the stereotypes of the virus which is circulating. The flu shot must be taken by all vulnerable groups as it reduces the intensity and severity of the disease.


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