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The Executive Briefing - Friday, March 24th

Why instant test results = problems for employers

Public Health & COVID News:

  • More than half a million UTIs each year may be linked to E. coli from meat. (USA Today)
  • TB decreased during COVID, but it’s back to pre-pandemic levels. (CNN)
  • Officials are closer to a decision on whether high-risk adults can get a second COVID bivalent booster dose. (Reuters)
  • To care for people with TB, a health professional watches them take their medicine. Finally, the CDC has approved directly observed therapy via video conference. (STAT)
  • 42% of Americans are living with obesity this year, which is linked to many other health risks. (Axios)
  • Women and older people are more at risk for long COVID. (Bloomberg)
  • Vaccination and Paxlovid both decrease the risk of long COVID. (CNN)
  • Doctors may be missing how up to 8% of addiction patients cheat on drug tests. (AP)
  • A new tropical mosquito has invaded Florida, worrying public health experts. West Nile, dengue, and chikungunya are all diseases that are spread by invasive mosquitos. (NPR)
  • Poppy seed bagels led to failed drug tests for two new moms, according to the ACLU, which is fighting the legality of unknowingly drug testing expectant parents. (Washington Post)
  • The number of Marburg fever cases has tripled in Equatorial Guinea. It’s caused by a virus closely related to Ebola. (STAT)

Mental Health News:

  • Many thoughtful proposals about mental health go unheeded in Florida, where a patchwork system leaves people struggling. (KHN)
  • Most teens lacked sleep and struggled with schoolwork in 2021, according to a new survey. (CIDRAP)
  • Suicide can be contagious for teens, but loved ones can help by knowing that it’s not harmful (and can help) to talk about it directly. (GMA)

If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, call 988 or message the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.

Best Questions:

We have three or four employees out with a stomach bug. What can we do to break the cycle of illness?

Noro is everywhere right now, and we’re seeing clients across the country dealing with three or four cases at once of GI-related illness among their employees. If you have a few employees out with profuse vomiting and diarrhea, you should assume it’s noro. Start by addressing it with your employees - make sure sick employees are staying home, and ask other employees to step up their handwashing. Consider moving from sick calls to daily wellness check surveys for three or four days so you can ensure that employees who are coming to work are actually symptom-free. Keep anyone who lives with or dates a sick employee out of work for at least three days, even if they don’t have symptoms themselves. Sanitize your bathrooms thoroughly, and consider doing a full noro-sanitizing protocol, even though it’s a big time investment - and definitely do it if anyone got sick at work.

My employee says they have long COVID, but they had a super mild case. Is that possible, or are they lying?

Unfortunately, it’s very possible to get long COVID after only having mild symptoms during your initial infection. Though there is a higher risk of long COVID for people who were hospitalized, in fact the majority of long COVID cases are in people who had relatively mild illness. It’s best to assume your employee is being truthful about their symptoms and connect them with your HR team for the appropriate accommodations or leave.

What do employers need to know about E. coli in meat causing UTIs? Do we need to exclude workers with UTIs?

We’ve long known that E. coli causes the vast majority of UTIs, but a new study looked at how it got into our systems in the first place. It found that about 8% of UTIs, or about a half million cases per year, can be linked to E. coli found in meat. They looked at samples of grocery store meat and then looked at blood and urine samples from people hospitalized with UTIs at the same time in the same area. About 8% of them seemed to be caused by the same strains that were found in that meat. The E. coli in the meat wasn’t necessarily enough to make someone sick just by passing through their gut - instead, it made them sick when it traveled (or got wiped) from the anus to the urinary tract. So, from an outbreak or food safety perspective, this isn’t something employers need to worry about right now. There’s no need to exclude employees with diagnosed UTIs, even if the cause is E. coli bacteria. Employers should only worry about E. coli that’s enterohemorrhagic (including O157) or shiga-toxin producing, especially in foodservice employees.

Deep Dive by the ZHH team:

Patients want immediate test results. It's causing an unexpected issue for employers. - ZHH Blog

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Disclaimer: This post is meant for general information and educational purposes only and does not constitute, and is not intended as, any form of medical, legal or regulatory advice or a recommendation or suggestion regarding the same.  No recipient of this information should act or refrain from acting on the basis of this information without first seeking legal advice from counsel in the relevant jurisdiction.