A career in law enforcement always entails a lot of human interaction. When you work with others, there is always an opportunity to catch a “bug” or other virus. There are also risks of more serious diseases if care is not taken when risks are apparent.
HIV, Hepatitis A, B, and C, and tuberculosis can be transmitted through a variety of different ways – such as air particles and contact with blood/saliva. If you have a weaker immune system, even a cold or flu that would normally be a minor hassle could become more severe.
Being aware of risk factors and preventing the spread of infectious diseases can help keep you and those you work with safer. It is vital to be cautious when dealing with an individual who may possess needles, has a persistent cough, or is spitting or otherwise ejecting bodily fluids.
The Causes of Infectious Diseases
Infectious diseases are illnesses that are caused by either bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites. Depending on the organism transmitted, an infected person can experience varying symptoms. These can resolve on their own with rest, but other serious cases may require treatment or even hospitalization.
Bacteria, though the word has a negative connotation at times, are not always bad. Some cause no effect to humans. Some live in the gut to help us digest food. Examples of infections caused by bad bacteria include strep throat, tuberculosis, MRSA, and food poisoning.
Viruses require a host (people, animals, plants) in order to grow and survive. Some common viral infections include the common cold and COVID-19. Certain ailments such as pneumonia and meningitis can be caused by either a virus or bacteria.
Fungi can cause skin diseases such as ringworm and athlete’s foot, as well as infect your lungs or nervous system.
Parasites are microscopic living organisms that require a host to survive. Malaria is a disease caused by a parasite that is transmitted by mosquito bites. Some parasites can be transmitted from animal feces.
How Diseases are Transmitted
There are two basic ways diseases are passed to humans – either direct or indirect contact.
Direct contact can be person to person. If an infected person coughs or sneezes on you, you have a chance of obtaining the same infection. Another possibility is animal to person, which occurs when an infected animal scratches or bites a human. Handling animal waste can cause infection as well.
Indirect contact can occur in a few different ways. Germs can linger on objects like doorknobs or tables, and if someone touches an infected item and then their face, the germs can be transferred. Insect bites are another example of transmission through indirect contact. Infection can also be spread through contaminated food and water, such as E. coli.
Preventing Infectious Diseases
As we remember from the COVID-19 pandemic, there are various types of personal protective equipment (PPE) that can lower the risk of transmission. Some may even prevent infection entirely. It is also important to remember the basics like washing your hands thoroughly.
Here are some steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of disease:
- Properly wear nitril gloves, eye protection, and face masks to prevent contact with saliva or other bodily fluids.
- Avoid touching your mouth, nose, or eyes with your hands.
- Hepatitis B and Tetanus vaccines are recommended by the CDC for first responders.
- If you feel sick (vomiting, have a fever, etc.), do not go to work.
- Do not allow the general public to use your personal pen for signing documents.
- Wash your hands frequently.
Remember to get the necessary tests if you believe you were exposed to someone with a viral infection. If you were accidentally stuck with a foreign needle, getting tested is even more of a priority and should not be put off.
VirTra’s Infectious Diseases Course for Law Enforcement
An upcoming course titled “Infectious Diseases” will soon be available to current law enforcement clients. This 4-hour course falls under the V-VICTA® curriculum umbrella and includes an instructor manual, testing materials, a class roster, and more.
Three new scenarios are introduced with this course. They include situations where the responding officer needs to exercise caution around a possibly infected individual, as well as someone refusing to wear a mask when a business requires one.