NIOSH Director John Howard to present UL webinar on infectious disease, prevention and control

A recent blog post by my colleague Jonathan Jacobi about the appropriate use of humor in workplace safety training has me thinking about the application of humor in other situations, such as personal health crises, natural disasters and global pandemics.

While it’s certainly not acceptable in some situations, there often is a place for humor, even in dire circumstances.

For example, at funerals people tell funny stories about loved ones to relieve their grief. The American Cancer Society supports the use of laughter therapy in combination with conventional medical treatment as a way to reduce physical/emotional pain and stress and promote better health.

When I was a newspaper reporter covering cops, firefighters and other emergency responders, I learned that they often swapped stories using dark humor. At first it struck me as callous, but when I understood how much these people really cared, I realized it was an effective coping mechanism.

Preparing for our July 11 webinar on an emerging threat – MERS-CoV – I discovered that even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which deals with all kinds of serious subjects, has found a place for humor. Last year it published a graphic novella, Preparedness 101: Zombie Pandemic, as “a fun way of teaching about emergency preparedness.” It’s worth checking out.

I don’t expect our speaker, John Howard, M.D., J.D., director of the CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to put a humorous spin on the subject when he presents next week’s complimentary webinar on MERS-CoV: Infection Prevention and Control. However, I do expect him to inform us on the status of the potentially fatal viral respiratory illness caused by Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus, as well as the overall value and applicability of work-related travel precautions and recommended practices to stop the spread of infectious disease. (Note: to date neither the World Health Organization nor the CDC have issued MERS-CoV-related travel health warnings for any country.)

He also will talk about similarities and differences between MERS-CoV and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which was identified in 2003. The 10-year anniversary of presents an opportunity to reflect on the international response to the SARS pandemic that resulted in more than 8,000 cases and nearly 800 deaths in more than 30 countries.

The Interim Infection Prevention and Control Recommendations for Hospitalized Patients with MERS-CoV are consistent with those recommended for the coronavirus that caused SARS:

  • Standard precautions such as hand hygiene
  • Contact precautions such as use of gown and gloves for contact with the patient or their environment
  • Eye protection for all patient contact
  • A respirator that is at least as protective as an N-95 respirator approved by NIOSH

For those of you who aren’t acquainted with Dr. Howard, he is board-certified in internal medicine and occupational medicine. You’ll find he is an exceptionally well informed and approachable, non-bureaucratic kind of guy who isn’t above using some light-hearted banter to get his point across.

In addition to the topic du jour, he has offered to take your questions about NIOSH’s research and recommendations on other health and safety issues, including preparing for the upcoming flu season. And for those who can’t joint the live session, it will be archived in our library.

Sign up for a free webinar hosted by UL and NIOSH on Infection Prevention and Control.