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Surveillance of work-related infectious diseases : Analysis 2011

Surveillance Arbeidsgerelateerde Infectieziekten : Analyse 2011


In the Netherlands, employers have to ensure that their employees can carry out their working tasks in a safe and healthy work environment. Employees should not experience any damaging health effects from exposure or possible exposure to pathogens. In some professions, due to the nature of the work, employees may be at increased risk of coming into contact with disease-causing micro-organisms. In order to gain an impression of the type and number of infectious diseases that may be contracted at or during work, the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) makes an analysis of the work-related infectious diseases reported for each year. Such an analysis is commissioned by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment (SWZ).

High-risk work environment
In 2011 there were 337 notifications registered in the two premier registration systems for work-related infectious diseases: the registration system of the Netherlands Center for Occupational Diseases (NCvB) and the CIb registration system Osiris in which notifiable infectious diseases are registered in accordance with the Public Health Act [Wet Publieke Gezondheid, Wpg]. The risk of contracting an infectious disease whilst at work was found to be highest in the sectors of healthcare, education and agriculture. It is expected that nowhere near all infectious diseases contracted in the work environment have been recorded in the registration systems. In spite of this, the registrations do serve as a useful pointer.

The type and number of reported infectious diseases for 2011 largely correspond with those reported in previous years. In 2011 the work-related infectious diseases reported by laboratories and the Municipal Public Health Services (GGD) to the Osiris register affected 193 employees. These reports were mainly for whooping cough, legionella, mumps and malaria. Occupational physicians reported 141 employees with work-related infectious diseases to the NCvB register. These reports were mainly for intestinal infections, skin infections and tuberculosis (including infection with tuberculosis bacteria whereby no symptoms arose).

More insight needed into work-related infectious diseases
Further investigation of the higher risk sectors is necessary if we are to acquire better insight into the prevalence of the various types of infectious diseases in the high-risk sectors. Armed with such information, employees and employers alike will be better able to pinpoint possible exposure situations and transmission routes, and take effective preventive measures.

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