Occupational Health South West

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Protecting Workers from Chickenpox

By Dr SM Tellam on 8/8/2010

Chickenpox (and Shingles) may seem like a minor illness, but for pregnant or immuno-supressed workers it can have devastating consequences. NHS Plus has recently published guidance on how to protect these workers.

You can check out the guidance in full at NHS Plus or read through our summary below.

General Guidelines

  • Workers diagnosed with chickenpox should remain away from the workplace until there are no new lesions and all lesions have crusted over.
  • A worker with a localised shingles rash on a part of the body that can be covered with a bandage and/or clothing should be allowed to work if they feel well.
  • However, workers with widespread shingles or a localised shingles rash that cannot be covered (e.g. facial), and those whose who have compromised immune systems should remain away from the workplace until the lesions have crusted over.
  • Employers should ask pregnant or immuno-suppressed workers who have been exposed to an infected colleague at work to contact their GP or relevant specialist immediately for advice.

When you may need OHSW to help

In the normal run of events, you should be able to get by without specialist advice. However, you should consider asking OHSW to see your staff if:

  • Any of your employees are pregnant, or think they might be pregnant.
  • Any of your employees are immuno-supressed (for instance if they are on Chemotherapy, or other drugs)
  • If your employees work in areas of increased exposure-risk such as in healthcare, prison, or immigration centres.

As well as assessing at-risk staff, OHSW can arrange vaccination for those employees with increased exposure-risk.

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