Work-Related Asthma – Only Half of Workers Vaccinated

Adults with asthma are at increased risk for pneumococcal disease, yet according to a new CDC study published this week in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, just 54 percent of adults with work-related asthma—asthma triggered by an exposure at work—have been vaccinated against the infection. CDC recommends all adults 19 through 64 years old with asthma get the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine.

CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) researchers found that adults with work-related asthma were more likely to have reported receiving a pneumococcal vaccine than adults with non-work-related asthma — 54 percent compared with 35 percent, respectively. Among adults with work-related asthma, pneumococcal vaccine coverage was lowest among Hispanics (36 percent), those without health insurance (39 percent), and adults ages 18 to 44 years (42 percent).

The study analyzed data from the 2012-2013 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), a state-based telephone survey, which includes an optional follow-up survey that collects detailed information on asthma. Nearly 10,000 adults ages 18–64 years with asthma from 29 states who have ever held a job, representing an estimated 12 million people, were included in the analysis. Of the adults with asthma in the study, researchers estimated 15 percent had work-related asthma.

Pneumococcal infections can range from ear and sinus infections to pneumonia and bloodstream infections.

CDC estimates that about 900,000 Americans get pneumococcal pneumonia each year and about 5 percent to 7 percent die from it. Adults with asthma who get pneumococcal pneumonia are at risk for additional complications including asthma exacerbation and invasive pneumococcal disease.

In a related story, at the 2017 National Safety Council Congress & Expo in Indianapolis, Allen Grisar, assistant director of OSHA’s area office in Milwaukee, said among the “interesting cases” the agency had investigated, one concerned the death of a worker in a malting operation who had a wheat dust allergy. OSHA found that the laborer had a significant asthma incident at work four months before his death that the victim’s company never investigated.

The company, which received multiple citations, also did not perform the proper maintenance on the ventilation/dust suppression system in the malting operation or look at the static pressure levels, Grisar said. The use of respiratory protection was not completely enforced, as employees were allowed to go without wearing it for brief periods.