New safety and health guidance from OSHA alerts workers and employers about the hazards of avian flu and provides practical recommendations on ways to avoid sickness.

"OSHA is very concerned about emerging infectious diseases. Although avian flu primarily affects birds, recent experience in Asia shows there is cause for concern because humans can, in certain cases, be infected," said OSHA Administrator John Henshaw. "We encourage employers and workers who may be exposed to avian flu to take appropriate precautions to prevent illness."

Cases of avian influenza among birds were reported in February 2004 in Delaware, Pennsylvania and Texas, leading to the destruction of hundreds of thousands of birds. Wild birds are the natural hosts, but the disease is highly contagious in birds and can spread to domestic flocks from contaminated farm equipment, soil and dust, animal feed, cages, or even shoes.

OSHA's guidance provides separate recommendations for farm workers and animal handlers, laboratory workers, medical personnel, food handlers, airline flight crews and travelers. The primary focus is good hygiene, including gloves and hand washing, as well as respiratory protection for those who work with infected animals or individuals.

The guidance also includes links to helpful Web sites with additional information and a list of technical articles and resources.