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Health Matters: Standards Assist Americans in Preventing Spread of the Flu

New York, Sep 22, 2009

With the first days of autumn comes the annual risk of contracting the flu. Coughing, sneezing, and aching are hardly the best ways to spend crisp fall days; fortunately, flu shots and healthy habits are effective measures for preventing infection. Standards are in place to support these measures, promoting a healthy season for all.

TheCenters for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a yearly flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting against seasonal influenza. Several International Standards developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) address the safe and effective use of hypodermic needles and syringes like the ones used in flu vaccines. ISO 7864:1993, Sterile hypodermic needles for single use, specifies a number of requirements for needles, including nomenclature for components, cleanliness, limits for acidity and alkalinity, size designation, performance, packaging, labeling, storage container, and transport wrapping.

Another ISO standard guides hypodermic syringes for single use in several parts:

  • ISO 7886-1:1993, Sterile hypodermic syringes for single use -- Part 1: Syringes for manual use
  • ISO 7886-2:1996, Part 2: Syringes for use with power-driven syringe pumps
  • ISO 7886-3:2005, Part 3: Auto-disable syringes for fixed-dose immunization
  • ISO 7886-4:2006, Part 4: Syringes with re-use prevention feature

These standards were developed by ISO Technical Committee (TC) 84, Devices for administration of medicinal products and intravascular catheters, Subcommittee (SC) 1, Syringes, needles and intravascular catheters for single use. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI)-accredited U.S. Technical Advisory Group (TAG) administrator for this SC is the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI), an ANSI organizational member and accredited standards developer.

The CDC also lists a number of good health habits that help protect people from contracting the flu. These include: covering the nose and mouth with a tissue during a cough or sneeze; washing hands often with soap and water; avoiding touching the eyes, nose, and mouth; and avoiding close contact with sick people, among others.

Standards are also in place to increase the effectiveness of these healthy habits. ASTM E2276-03e1, Standard Test Method for Determining the Bacteria-Eliminating Effectiveness of Hygienic Handwash and Handrub Agents Using the Fingerpads of Adult Subjects, is a standard that can apply to soap used in the frequent hand-washing recommended during flu season. This document was developed by ASTM International, an ANSI member and audited designator.

Beyond preventative measures, the CDC suggests antiviral drugs if recommended by a doctor for those who have contracted the flu. For more information on the fighting the flu, see the CDC’s website.

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