Worry more about the Influenza Virus than Ebola by Kathleen Crowley, PA-C, MPH, DrPH

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 3,000 to 48,000 lives in the United States are lost each year due to influenza (flu). The CDC also reported that approximately 60% of adults and 43% of children were not vaccinated in the most recent reporting year.

As fatal as the flu can be, Americans are more on edge about the potential spread of Ebola, perhaps because it is easy to overlook a virus we have long been accustomed. Influenza is a respiratory pathogen, easily transmitted, unlike Ebola which requires contact with blood or bodily fluids. Influenza infection is vaccine-preventable, and in fact, 92% of NYPH personnel received the flu vaccine in 2013/14.

The vaccine is available at no cost to University personnel through Workforce Health & Safety (CUMC) or Columbia Health (Morningside) and it is also important to note that one can not catch the flu from a flu shot because the virus in the vaccine is killed. Flu viruses are constantly changing and it is not unusual for new flu viruses to appear each year, so the CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine (http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/vaccine/index.htm) for everyone 6 months of age and older as the first and most important step in protecting against this serious disease. The seasonal flu vaccine is designed to protect against the main flu viruses that research suggests will cause the most illness during the upcoming flu season. However it usually takes up to two weeks before the influenza vaccine is effective, so get vaccinated as soon as possible before others around you are sick. So knockout the flu before it knocks out you, get vaccinated!

Stay Away from the Light by Max Amurao, Clinical Radiation Safety Officer

Do you use a Class 3B or Class 4 laser in your laboratory? If so, stay away from the light (even if you can't see it)!  When working with high-power lasers, one must be mindful of both beam and non-beam hazards.

It is important to use eye and skin protection from beam hazards at all times. Eye protection must be worn, and must match the wavelength of the laser used.  It must have a sufficient optical density rating to reduce the incident laser beam intensity. Skin protection - although sometimes overlooked - is also an important consideration when using a high-power laser. Cover as much exposed skin as practical to minimize the possibility of inadvertent skin burns; loose clothing that can drop into the beam path should be avoided.

Some non-beam hazards to be mindful of include electric shock, fire (ignition), as well as smoke and fumes. Lasers typically operate at a high voltage, directly translating to the potential for serious electrical injury. Do not use a laser when electronic components and instrument leads are exposed! In addition, intense lasers can easily ignite combustible materials and start a fire. Be careful not to put anything in the beam path that can catch on fire. Materials can also be vaporized if intense light is impinging on them. Hazardous materials, metals, and chemicals are some of the typical agents in a research laboratory that can become airborne as part of a laser plume. Plan on having appropriate air suction devices, and ensure that the beam is used in a well-ventilated area.

Work with lasers can be safe and worry-free, but can be dangerous if approached haphazardly. If you are working with powerful lasers, stay away from the light.  As a reminder, register all lasers with EH&S by submitting Appendix D - http://www.ehs.columbia.edu/LaserRegistrationForm.pdf - , and contact lasersafety@columbia.edu with any questions.

Columbia University EH&S has joined Twitter!twitter
In our continuing effort to ensure the Columbia University Community has the most up to date information
on all matters related to health and safety both within and outside of the organization, EH&S is happy to announce the
launch of our official Department twitter account. Following us is easy: you can follow our account (@ColumbiaEHS)
from Twitter or through the easy access link on our home page at www.ehs.columbia.edu.

Vision Statement

Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S) provides expert guidance and timely service to the University Community through our commitment to health and safety. Employing best practices and collaboration, and by building long term relationships, we promote a productive and safety conscious work environment

sweat Editorial Staff: Kathleen Crowley, Chris Pettinato, Chris Pitoscia
Graphics, Design, Lay-out: Jean Lee
Do you have a suggestion for a future SafetyMatters article? Do you have a comment on something you just read? Please
share it with us at newsfeedback@columbia.edu

page 6 Page 6

Page 1 | Page 2 | Page 3 | Page 4 | Page 5 | Page 6
Go to EH&S Home Page