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DHS Issues 'Interim' Swine Flu Guidelines

By Ed O'Keefe



A Customs and Border Protection agent wears a protective mask while interviewing the driver of vehicle entering the United States at the San Ysidro Border Crossing in San Diego on Monday. (Photo by AP)

Updated 12:31 p.m. ET

The Department of Homeland Security has issued new interim guidelines to employees who may come in contact with travelers who have contracted swine flu, but the union that represents Customs and Border Protection and Transportation Security Administration employees calls the instructions inadequate and incomplete.

A memo obtained last night by The Washington Post instructs CBP, TSA or Immigration and Customs Enforcement employees who come in contact with people known or suspected to be infected to wear protective masks. Workers should also frequently wash their hands, cover their mouths when they cough and stay home if they feel ill. Pregnant employees and those with asthma, cardiac or kidney disease who cannot wear masks must discuss other potential protective measures with supervisors, according to the memo. (See the full memo below.)

The guidance is described as "an interim measure until the Office of Personnel Management provides comprehensive guidance for all federal employees." OPM distributed recommendations to all federal employees earlier this week instructing them to keep at least six feet from anyone who appears ill.

The updated instructions, while not much different than the OPM guidance, come after DHS officials met earlier this week with the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), which represents all CBP officers and some transportation security officers (TSOs).

In a statement issued late this morning, NTEU president Colleen M. Kelley said the instructions are inadequate and "putting at unnecessary risk the health of these employees, specifically those that are responsible for clearing travelers from Mexico, and those with special conditions such as pregnancy or respiratory ailments."

NTEU notes that their members come in constant physical contact with potentially infected passengers: TSOs have to "wand" passengers at security checkpoints, perform pat-down searches and touch passengers' boarding passes. CBP officers perform similar tasks and also have to check baggage, she said.

"The health of our employees is of utmost importance to us, which is why we issued department-wide guidance," said DHS spokeswoman Amy Kudwa. "The Department of Homeland Security has not issued an order saying our employees cannot wear masks."

Meetings between the union and DHS are ongoing, according to Kelley.

---

Homeland Security Interim Guidance on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

April 30, 2009

TO: All DHS employees

FROM: Elaine Duke, Under Secretary for Management

RE: Interim Guidance on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Because many of our employees work in the field where they may come in contact with people who have contracted the 2009 H1N1 flu virus, this guidance is being released as an interim measure until the Office of Personnel Management provides comprehensive guidance for all federal employees.

This guidance is based on DHS’ work with the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This guidance will be augmented as necessary and we will continue to keep employees apprised of any new guidance that may be issued.

For all employees, taking protective measures is critically important, no matter what tasks they are performing.

All employees should:

• Wash hands frequently with soap or sanitizing solutions
• Cover their mouths when they cough
• Stay home from work if feeling ill

In addition, the following employees MUST wear Personal Protective Equipment.

• Employees who work closely with (either in contact with or within 6 feet of) people specifically known or suspected to be infected with the H1N1 virus must wear respiratory protection. For example: CBP, TSA, and ICE employees who are in close proximity to a person who is being held in isolation due to flu-like symptoms must wear a mask.

A mask with an N95 or higher-rated filter is required for these situations.

Employees who have underlying conditions – such as pregnancy, asthma, or cardiac or kidney disease – and cannot wear a mask should consult with their component Safety and Health Officers and Supervisors for alternative risk reduction measures.

Employees may request further information and guidance from DHS Office of Health Affairs and DHS Office of Safety and Environmental Programs.

Further information and protective measures on H1N1 flu can be found at www.cdc.gov.

By Ed O'Keefe  | May 1, 2009; 9:32 AM ET
Categories:  Agencies and Departments, Workplace Issues  
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Comments

i'm sorry......

Posted by: TheBabeNemo | May 1, 2009 10:38 AM | Report abuse

When you consider how many thousands of people come across the border from Mexico into the U.S., these precautions do not seem nearly enough to protect the Border Patrol or Customs agents. Many of them cannot perform their duties while standing six feet away from the person they seek to interview or wand.

Napolitano needs to find more and better ways to protect the people who control the border for us. Also - one country in Europe is scanning entry by using a device that can tell if someone has a fever. This would be a useful tool on our border, too.

Posted by: Utahreb | May 1, 2009 12:49 PM | Report abuse

The people who work our border with Mexico are familiar with the treason practiced by our government. They try to do their work everyday while being hampered by the open-borders ideology. We owe them much more than we ever pay them.

Ask them what they think of another amnesty.

Posted by: rusty3 | May 1, 2009 3:08 PM | Report abuse

Okay, Mexican tourist first case of virus in Asia. This has got me asking out of the 140 some cases in America, how many of them are hispanic, from Mexico?
If the number is, most, than I am calling for a border closing and a stepping up of troops lining the border gaurding it. If illegals still try to cross and they do not let themselves be put into custody when found illegaly croosing, then they should be shot on sight. It's harsh, but all I hear of the virus seems to spawn from Mexico. This and the the amount of tainted fruits and vegatables that are carrying Samonella are all from Mexico or crossing through Meico. If they cannot regulate their produce and meat to be up to standards of the rest of the world, then nothing should come out of their country. This is not due to any amount of hate towards hispanics but purely a concern for all humans. I'm sorry, but it's the way it should be.

Posted by: ai3di | May 1, 2009 5:10 PM | Report abuse

Another Napolitano fumble. Her underling, Elaine Duke fails to understand that we have men and women working on the very apex of travelers exiting a country quite contaminated with Swine Flu. These folks should be able to use maximum protection while performing their duties on the border. With the eternally clueless Napolitano at the DHS helm, we are in for rough if not fatal seas.

Posted by: Tupac_Goldstein | May 1, 2009 5:19 PM | Report abuse

The proponents of the North American Union and The NWO do not aknowlege the fact that there is a border between Mexico and the U.S. or Canada and the US.; Therefore even if their disease scare was one occuring from an uncontrived
virus, one occuring from nature, they consider that it is only spreading in their new single country The North American Union To be run the foreigners who run the European Union and our Federal Reserve. They are taking away our Constitutuional Government. Next they will outlaw Town County Local and State Government. Ignorant Americans you deserve what you are to lazy to defend.

If Americans want to stay Fat dumb and lazy have another beer sit back and watch football and cable news blather. Have a nice day. You make Tokyo Rose Proud.

Posted by: Ahikawa | May 1, 2009 5:28 PM | Report abuse

Okay, Mexican tourist first case of virus in Asia. This has got me asking out of the 140 some cases in America, how many of them are hispanic, from Mexico?
================
Most of them are gringos, who were visiting Mexico. Look at the NY cases.

If the number is, most, than I am calling for a border closing and a stepping up of troops lining the border gaurding it.
===========
Who cares what you call for? Nobody listens to loonies.


If illegals still try to cross and they do not let themselves be put into custody when found illegaly croosing, then they should be shot on sight.
======
And if you attempt to shoot anyone like that, I'll use you as target practice.


It's harsh, but all I hear of the virus seems to spawn from Mexico.
===========
The US had the first major pig flu in 1976. Since 2005, the CDC has reported cases of pig flu. More than likely, the virus traveled south, as many epidemiologists suggest.

This and the the amount of tainted fruits and vegatables that are carrying Samonella are all from Mexico or crossing through Meico.
If they cannot regulate their produce and meat to be up to standards of the rest of the world, then nothing should come out of their country.
============
The US has had salmonella and e-coli outbreaks almost every month, so I wouldn't be throwing stones if I were you. In fact, some countries still refuse US meat exports because of mad cow disease and the US's refusal to test cattle for this disease.


This is not due to any amount of hate towards hispanics but purely a concern for all humans. I'm sorry, but it's the way it should be.
=======================
Right....Your post is full of baseless prejudices. Ignorant loser. Get a job.

Posted by: CyberPost | May 1, 2009 6:08 PM | Report abuse

The order is about personal protective equipment. I am hoping there is similar information given to employees on the front line reassuring them that the government will do its part to protect them if conditions elevate. There needs to be policy about what to do with suspected cases, and under what conditions workers will receive preventive Tamiflu or Relenza antiviral medicine. Also, some negotiation needs to be done if a vaccine becomes available.

Posted by: joeshuren1 | May 1, 2009 7:54 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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