January 2008, Vol. 20, No.1

Safety Corner

Recommended Immunizations

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that the general public, including all wastewater treatment plant operators and others working within wastewater treatment plants, be up-to-date on their immunizations for diphtheria and tetanus. Booster shots are recommended every 10 years after the initial immunizations are administered. The tetanus booster needs to be repeated if a wound or puncture becomes dirty and a booster shot has not been received within 5 years.

At the present time, no additional immunizations above those recommended by the U.S. Public Health Service for adults in the general population are advised for workers in contact with wastewater. The table below summarizes the immunizations recommended by the U.S. Public Health Service.

The preventive effect of the vaccine immune serum globulin for hepatitis A is short-lived (about 3 weeks), and is not routinely recommended for wastewater workers unless there has been direct exposure to wastewater splashed into an open wound or the mouth or a severe outbreak has occurred in the community. The hepatitis B vaccination is not typically recommended for wastewater workers because the risk of transmission by wastewater is extremely remote.

Immunizations Recommended by the U.S. Public Health Service 

 Disease Who Needs Immunization Immunization
Hepatitis A Individuals with close personal contact with hepatitis A Hepatitis A immune globulin treatment
Hepatitis B Homosexual males, household and sexual contacts with carriers, and those who have had direct exposure to blood of a person known or suspected to be a carrier Hepatitis A immune globulin treatment with hepatitis B vaccine
Influenza Adults 65 years and older* Annual influenza vaccine
Measles Adults born in 1957 or later, unless they have evidence of vaccination on or after their first birthday, documentation of physician diagnosed disease, or laboratory evidence of the disease Combined measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine (MMR)
Mumps Adults, especially males, who have not been previously infected Mumps vaccine
Pneumococcal disease Adults 65 years or older Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine
Rubella Women of childbearing age, unless proof of vaccination or laboratory evidence of immunity is available Rubella vaccine
Tetanus and diphtheria Adults every 10 years after initial dose and after wounds, unless it has been 5 years since last dose TD vaccine
*In general, anyone who wants to reduce their chances of getting influenza can get vaccinated, CDC says.

Adapted from Biological Hazards at Wastewater Treatment Facilities, published by the Water Environment Federation (Alexandria, Va.).