Thursday, 13 December 2012

Common Misconception Refuses to Go Away

This recent article from Ireland  states that work has been halted on the building of a new hospital in the Mid-West of Ireland because of fears of infection by the 'virus aspergillosis'

Galway builders JJ Rhatigan & Company have pulled around 30 workers off its construction site in Dooradoyle, and closed it until the HSE acts to install filters, and seal up windows to prevent the Aspergillosis virus getting on site.
Ger Mullane, of JJ Rhatigan, says it is the HSE’s responsibility to install the filters, not his company’s.
The condition is carried by dust in the air. Common when demolitions are taking place, if building workers inhale the spore, it can cause a range of illnesses from coughs and fevers to chills, delirium, blood clots and failure of vital organs.
This is of course incorrect as people with a healthy immune system have little to fear from inhaling the amounts of fungal spores normally present in the air, indoors and out. Our lungs are populated with plentiful neutrophils which destroy the fungus before it can do any harm.

The people at risk from building works close to hospitals are not the construction workers (other than those allergic or asthmatic). Those at risk are the patients who are suffering from illnesses that cause problems with their immune system (e.g. neglected diabetes, HIV) or who are being treated with drugs that suppress our immune systems (corticosteroids, some drugs used to help transplant recipients) or who have had their immune system removed for a short time while undergoing treatment for some cancers.
There is also another category of people at risk that includes those who suffer from severe asthma with fungal sensitivity (SAFS) and allergies.

This point is made by the hospital spokeman later in the article in question
“When you carry out demolition works, you obviously create dust. The dust can, and usually does contain an organism called aspergillosis. When you seek excavation, or do demolition, you release this, and it can be contagious. People who have lung problems or breathing difficulties are susceptible to inhaling that spore. If you are working in a hospital environment, you will seal up the windows and the fans, and put in better filters, meaning the spore will not get into the hospital,”
Ironically Ireland is one of the few countries in the world that have a written protocol for precautions to take when running a hospital close to building work, so this is one subject we could expect the Irish media to get right! Oh! and while they are at it they might remember that aspergillosis is caused by Aspergillus, a fungus, not a virus.

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