Posted on: September 28, 2010 Posted by: Diane Swarts Comments: 0

A women colleague was admitted to hospital with meningitis last week, we were alerted a week later of infection risk, writes Western Cape labour shop stewart TK to

Doctors came to work and issued explanations and tablets, apparently for tuberculosis, (TB), and meningitis.

We are overcrowded at work because of the workload, and still more contractors are employed to help out. We do not have a site nurse, and we do not have regular checkups.

What steps should we take. We are considering first talking to our managers and then to health or labour authorities, if we get no assurance of protection against possible meningitis or TB infection.

Awareness and ventilation editor SHEQafrica replies; TK, from your email it seems that you are working in a potentially infectious atmosphere, due to crowded conditions at work.

Workers have the right to information about their risks, and to refuse unsafe work or unsafe working conditions. Note down information and medication and advice given to you by medical visitors.

Get written information about your colleague’s condition and diagnosis. Negotiate with your employers immediately to change practices, or to use additional sites, or to alter premises, or to improve ventilation.

Take reasonable steps to prevent infection yourselves. Workers feeing or showing symptoms, should not attend work and get medical attention. Workers should all undergo medical checkup, including management, visitors, contractors, couriers, family members.

Management should consult medical officials in your presence, involve your leaders in consulting a specialist on occupational health, hygiene or relevant infection, and should take reasonable, but extraordinary steps to prevent infection and promote staff wellness.

If you are obstructed and delayed, talk to DOH and DOL officials, and your union.

Labour shop steward negotiates working conditions

TK replies; Thank you, I need this support. We are going to see the manager today. I will raise all the relevant issues.

We have decided on a mandate, since the crowded conditions have been going on for weeks. Thank you very much for your help.

Meningitis spread

Meningitis spreads mainly through kisses, sneezes, coughs, and in close living quarters, especially when people share cups, forks, and spoons.

Mengingitis symptoms

Symptoms include a stiff neck, fever, sensitivity to light, confusion, headaches and vomiting. Some 5% to 10% of patients die within 24 to 48 hours of the onset of symptoms, even with quick diagnosis and therapy.

Up to 20 percent of people who survive infection with bacterial meningitis suffer brain damage, hearing loss, or learning disability.

During the dry season, dusty wind and upper respiratory tract infections, from cold nights, diminish local immunity of the pharynx, increasing the risk of meningitis, says a WHO fact sheet. Large public gatherings and shopping malls may contribute to epidemics.

Meningitis belt in Africa

Meningitis is an infectious infection of brain lining, affecting learners, students, and people living and working in close or crowded conditions, or people bitten by infected animals like mongoose or dogs.

Some 25 000 suspect cases were reported in the meningitis belt in West Africa recently, and a third of the world’s stockpiled meningitis vaccine doses have been dispatched to West Africa where an outbreak has killed 1 100 people, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said.

Meningitis is an infection of the thin lining that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. Infection rates in Africa tend to rise during the dry and hot season from January to May.

The meningitis belt stretches from Senegal to Ethiopia, with 85% concentrated in Niger and Nigeria. WHO says 300 million people in that area are at risk of the disease every year.

“The current epidemic is the biggest these countries have faced in the past five years,” said Fadela Chaib, a spokeswoman for the UN agency. Some 4 million meningitis vaccine doses have been released to boost immunity levels in those two countries.

PHOTO; Microscopic image of one of the types of bacteria that causes meningitis, an infectious and often fatal disease.


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