Cal/OSHA posted new guidance on what employers can do to protect workers from monkeypox (MPX).
The guidance applies to workplaces covered by the state’s Aerosol Transmissible Diseases (ATD) standard, including healthcare facilities, medical transport, public heath services and police.
MPX is a viral infection that can spread from infected humans, animals and materials contaminated with the virus. Since May 2022, there has been a rapid rise in cases of MPX across the U.S. and the rest of the world.
The disease usually resolves on its own without treatment but can be severe in young children or immunocompromised individuals, according to Cal/OSHA.
California Governor Gavin Newsom issued a statewide emergency due to MPX on Aug. 1.
Can become airborne in certain circumstances
MPX spreads primarily by close or direct contact with infectious rashes, lesions, scabs or body fluids, according to the Cal/OSHA guidance document. It can also spread through touching materials used by a person with MPX that haven’t been cleaned, such as clothing, towels, and bedding.
The virus can become airborne during changing or handling of contaminated linen. In addition to lesions on the skin, lesions may be located in the mouth or throat, and research is underway to further understand the role of respiratory fluids, droplets and particles in the transmission of MPX.
What California employers are required to do
Regulations require employers in California to:
- implement a written program to prevent or reduce the transmission of aerosol transmissible diseases specific to the workplace and operations
- provide and ensure the use of respiratory protection
- ensure that PPE is provided and used by employees exposed to persons with or suspected to have MPX, or to linens or surfaces that may contain the virus
- implement written procedures for exposure incidents, and
- report the exposure to the local health officer.
No specific federal rules at this time
The World Health Organization (WHO) and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) declared MPX a “public health emergency of international concern” in July. However, WHO and CDC both view MPX as a public health hazard, not a workplace hazard, meaning that there are no specific federal rules addressing monkeypox precautions in the workplace, at this time.