Safety, Health and Wellbeing

Infectious diseases

Our role is to develop and assist in the implementation of the UWA safety, health and wellbeing programs in order to minimise the risk of injury, illness and property damage.

We provide consultancy and other services to promote best practice and legislative compliance in all University and related activities.

Further information

For emergencies, call (+61 8) 6488 2222

The University of Western Australia is committed to taking all reasonable steps for the protection of staff, students and public from dangerous infectious diseases.

The implementation of effective infection control guidelines depends upon the co-operation of staff and students. They must have a proper understanding of how infections may be spread in the workplace and of established prevention procedures.

  1. Current University practice
  2. Specific infectious agents
  3. Procedures for human infectious diseases
  4. Specific diseases
  5. Zoonoses of potential risk in Australia

Current University practice

Infection control

The University has a written policy for the safe laboratory handling of human biological specimens.

Staff and students who work with materials which may provide an infection hazard are required to conform to these guidelines.

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Specific infectious agents

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is highly infectious, potentially fatal, but capable of control by vaccine.

All full-time clinical staff in the Faculty of Dentistry are offered immunisation against Hepatitis B. All new appointees in the Faculty of Dentistry are required to produce a certificate of immunisation as a condition of appointment.

First-year students in Dental Science are screened to establish their antibody-antigen status and, where necessary, are required to undergo immunisation against Hepatitis B. Where an antigen-positive result is indicated the student is precluded from continuing in the Dental Science course.

Medical students are strongly advised to be immunised against Hepatitis B before starting the clinical years of their course.

Immunisation against Hepatitis B is available to appropriate staff through the University Health Service.

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) infection is a communicable disease that may result in the condition Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS).

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Procedures for human infectious diseases

Infection control procedure

The University has written guidelines for the safe laboratory handling of human biological specimens.

Human blood and other body fluids and tissue

Personnel handling human or animal blood or other body fluids and tissue must use appropriate barrier precautions at all times. Similar measures must also be used if there is likely exposure of mucous membranes and non-intact skin, for handling items or surfaces soiled with blood or body fluids, and for performing venipuncture or other vascular access procedures.

Gloves must be used at all times and masks may be required if there is a potential for aerosol production.

Specimens of human blood or other body fluids must be in well constructed and tightly sealed containers and marked with a biohazard label.

Needles, syringes and scalpel blades

To avoid needlestick injuries, needles must never be inserted into their original sheaths, broken or bent by hand, or removed from disposable syringes after use. Used vials and syringes must be discarded only into rigid-wall, puncture-resistant containers.

Equipment

All reusable equipment must be carefully decontaminated in an appropriate manner having regard to the nature of the equipment and the contamination.

All disposable items that are soiled with potentially infectious material should be considered infectious waste, identified as such, kept separate and disposed of in accordance with appropriate guidelines for infectious waste disposal.

Invasive procedures

Strict adherence to infection control measures is recommended for personnel undertaking procedures which involve surgical entry into tissues, cavities or organs, or the manipulation, cutting or removal of any oral or perioral tissues during which bleeding may occur.

Dental care

Precautions must be taken to ensure both the safety of the dentist, assistants and patient and the prevention of transmission from patient to patient, especially through the use of needles. Special precautions include:

  • use of gloves and when spattering of blood is likely, masks and eye protection
  • suction tubing and reservoirs when working inside the mouth
  • disinfection of instruments and other contaminated objects
  • disposable cups for mouth washing.

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Specific diseases

Hepatitis B and Human Immunodeficiency Virus

The University of Western Australia is committed to providing fair and reasonable treatment of staff and students who become infected with an infectious disease commensurate with its duty of care to provide a safe working environment.

Employees suffering from asymptomatic HIV infection, HIV illness or AIDS should be treated in the same manner as any employee with a non-work related serious illness or disease and with preservation of normal benefits and conditions.

All recruitment, placement and promotion decisions are to be based exclusively on criteria relating to merit and fitness without reference to Hepatitis B, HIV infection or AIDS. Equal opportunity legislative provisions should be observed and options normally available within the University to enable an employee to remain in employment should be accessible to persons confirmed with Hepatitis B infection, HIV infection or AIDS-related illness.

Legislation however contains provisions to allow the proper protection of public health and a person with a particular infectious disease can be excluded from certain occupations (or restricted to certain places of residence).

Staff members and students must at all times adhere strictly to the barrier controls appropriate to the hazards of their workplace activity. The University will display prominent notice of potential hazards and precautions to be taken.

In addition, and in line with its own duty of care, the University has a responsibility to formulate and implement education programs to provide to staff and students, such as these:

  • occupational health and safety procedures for personnel identified to be at some increased risk of exposure to HIV or Hepatitis B because of the nature of their employment or studies
  • general information on HIV and Hepatitis B
  • a basis for the promotion of healthy behaviour and attitudes
  • the availability and access for infected persons to discuss their situation confidentially with the University's Counselling Service and other community support agencies.

Research and teaching areas can be graded according to the risk of exposure to human tissue, blood and other body fluids, the agents of transmission of Hepatitis B and HIV.

Category A

Clinical staff in:

  • Dental Science (Clinical)
  • Surgery
  • Obstetrics and Gynaecology
  • General Practice
  • Medicine.
Category B
  • Anatomy
  • Biochemistry
  • Dental Science (Technical)
  • Medicine
  • Microbiology
  • Pathology
  • Physiology
  • Campus Management (Grounds).
Category C

All other areas not in A or B.

For Category A

As a condition of employment, all new clinical staff in the Faculty of Dentistry and other Medical departments in this category are required to produce a certificate of immunisation against Hepatitis B. In addition, and as a condition of appointment, all new clinical staff should be screened to establish their antibody status in relation to HIV, and where an antibody positive result is indicated the appointment should be declined.

First-year students in Dental Science should be screened to establish their antibody-antigen status in relation to Hepatitis B and their antibody status to HIV and, where necessary, to undergo immunisation against Hepatitis B. Where an antigen positive result is indicated for Hepatitis B, or when an antibody positive result is indicated for HIV, the student is precluded from continuing in the Dental Science course.

Any information pertaining to an individual's Hepatitis B or HIV status is to be confidential. Clinical staff and students in the Faculty of Dentistry, and clinical staff and students in the Medical departments who carry out invasive procedures on patients, who find they have become infected with Hepatitis B or HIV must agree to the fact of their status being communicated to their Head of Department, Section or Unit.

All staff and students are expected to exercise their duty of care with respect to other students, staff and people with whom they come into contact in the course of their work, studies or social life, and in particular their patients. Infected staff and students should not carry out procedures or work which poses a danger of transmission of the infectious agent or which poses a danger to themselves.

For Category B

Existing staff in Category B areas will be offered voluntary serum testing to establish their antibody-antigen status in relation to Hepatitis B and HIV. Staff who are antigen-negative for Hepatitis B will be encouraged by letter to undergo vaccination.

As a condition of employment new appointees in Category B areas who may be expected to carry out work on procedures involving human patients will be required to either undergo serum testing to establish their antibody-antigen status in relation to Hepatitis B only or produce a certificate of immunisation. Persons who are found to be antigen-positive must agree to the fact of their Hepatitis B status being communicated to their Head of School / Section / Unit.

The cost of testing and vaccination will be met by the University.

Students who enrol in courses in Category B areas should be advised of the hazards involved with their chosen field of study and be encouraged to undergo serum testing in relation to Hepatitis B and vaccination where appropriate. The cost of testing and vaccination will be payable by the student.

Any information pertaining to an existing employee's Hepatitis B or HIV status is to be confidential, and unless the work poses a danger, there is no obligation on an employee to advise the University if he or she is infected with Hepatitis B or HIV.

Note: For All Categories

Staff and students who know they are infected with Hepatitis B or HIV are expected to exercise their duty of care, particularly with respect to human patients, staff, students or other people with whom they come into contact in the course of their work, studies and social life.

Animals and Zoonoses

Whenever animals are managed for use in experimental work, humans may become infected either by a zoonotic disease or, if a human pathogen is being used in the experimental work, by that pathogen. The Federal Government has prepared the Australian Code of Practice for the Care and Use of Animals for Scientific Purposes, which must be observed by recipients of research grants in order to minimise the possibility of infection of humans by human pathogens used in experimental work. While researchers are aware of the risks associated with human pathogens, many are unaware of the dangers presented by zoonotic diseases in experimental animals.

Zoonoses are communicable diseases and parasitic infestations which are transmitted between vertebrate hosts and humans. The communicable diseases are transmitted through contact with animals or by contact with animal products or contaminated materials, while parasitic infestations pass through a cycle usually involving more than one vertebrate host species or a vertebrate host and an invertebrate vector. Often the animal "carrier" is not obviously ill.

Zoonoses may be contracted via inhalation, ingestion, or contamination of a wound or eye or by the bite of a vector (mosquito, mite, tick). Staff who handle animals must be informed of these important zoonotic diseases and of the precautions they should take.

Regular health checks of staff who handle animals are recommended in the interests of both staff and animals, and as a prophylactic measure all personnel who handle animals should have been (re)-immunised against tetanus within the past five years. It is the individual's own responsibility to ensure this.

Staff involved in the care and/or use of non-human primates for research purposes will receive tuberculin tests prior to and upon completion of employment. Employees whose pre-employment tuberculosis test indicates a negative result will be offered BCG vaccination. The cost will be payable by the employee.

Information

Staff and students should bring to the attention of the UWA Institutional Biosafety Group Committee and/or University Safety Committee any practice which may be, or has the potential to be, hazardous but for which no procedures have been developed.

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Zoonoses of potential risk in Australia

  • Allergenic and Parasitic mites
  • Allergic Bronchialveolitis (Bird Breeders Lung)
  • Allergy on Humans Caused by Exposure to Birds and Mammals
  • Arthropod-borne viruses
  • Avian tuberculosis
  • Brucellosis
  • Campylobacteriosis
  • Cat Scratch disease
  • Chlamydiosis (psittacosis, ornithosis, "parrot fever")
  • Contagious Ecthyma
  • Cryptococcosis
  • Cutaneous mycoses ("ringworm")
  • Dipylidiasis
  • Dirofilariasis
  • Erysipeloid
  • Internal fungal and yeast infections
  • Leptospirosis
  • Listeriosis
  • Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis
  • Mites
  • Murine typhus
  • Newcastle disease
  • Q Fever
  • Salmonellosis
  • Spirillary rat-bite fever
  • Streptobacillary rat-bite fever
  • Toxoplasmosis
  • Tuberculosis
  • Yersiniosis