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Infectious disease risks associated with occupational exposure: a systematic review of the literature
  1. Juanita A Haagsma1,2,
  2. Luqman Tariq3,
  3. Dick J Heederik4,
  4. Arie H Havelaar1,4
  1. 1Laboratory for Zoonoses and Environmental Microbiology, Centre for Infectious Disease Control Netherlands, National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, Bilthoven, The Netherlands
  2. 2Department of Public Health, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
  3. 3Centre for Prevention and Health Services Research, Public Health and Health Services Division, National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, Bilthoven, The Netherlands
  4. 4Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands
  1. Correspondence to Dr Juanita A Haagsma, Erasmus Medical Centre, Department of Public Health, P.O. Box 1738, 3000 CA, Rotterdam, The Netherlands; j.haagsma{at}


Employees in different types of work may be intentionally or accidentally exposed to biological agents. Improved risk assessment is needed to identify opportunities to prevent work-related infectious disease. The objective of the current study was to perform a systematic literature review of work-related infectious disease to assist in the identification of occupational infectious disease risks. A literature search of papers on work-related infectious disease published between 1999 and 2008 yielded 1239 papers of which 242 met the selection criteria and were included in the review. The results of the systematic literature review were arranged in a matrix of occupational groups and exposure pathways. Increased risk from infectious diseases appeared to be concentrated in specific professions. Healthcare workers, workers in contact with animals, laboratory workers and refuse workers seem to have the highest risk of infection by a variety of pathogens. However, pathogens reported to be associated with closely related professions were different, indicating qualitative under-reporting. Arranging the results of this systematic review on work-related infectious diseases in a matrix of occupational groups and exposure pathways allowed the reliable identification of exposure hazards for specific occupational groups beyond currently reported diseases.

  • Occupational diseases
  • communicable diseases
  • occupational exposure
  • epidemiology
  • public health
  • disability
  • injury
  • allergy
  • risk assessment
  • retrospective exposure assessment
  • lung function
  • exposure assessment
  • organic dusts
  • construction
  • animal workers
  • agriculture
  • occupational asthma
  • asthma

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  • Funding This research was funded by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment of the Netherlands (grant number 12).

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.