6-10 Communicable Diseases

Policy Type: Local

Responsible Office: Chief of Police, Virginia Commonwealth University Police Department

Initial Policy Approved: 4/3/2013

Current Revision Approved: 4/3/2013



It is the policy of the VCUPD to provide guidance and the necessary protective equipment to reduce the risks of employees contracting infectious diseases. The risk of exposure to infectious diseases exists in policing. Department personnel should take all appropriate precautions as outlined in this directive to minimize their risk. The purpose of this directive is to establish guidelines for department personnel who may come in contact with persons with infectious diseases. This policy identifies the most prevalent infectious diseases, prevention strategies, protection procedures, precaution guidelines, and reporting procedures. The Training and Education Division sergeant shall be the coordinator of the communicable disease program. The Training and Education Division sergeant shall be responsible for periodic training/retraining and maintenance of records of all employees. All records dealing with communicable disease exposure shall be kept strictly confidential.

Personnel shall not shy away from dealing with people in a legitimate law enforcement context. The measures provided herein will assist officers in carrying out their duties while simultaneously minimizing health risks. Officers cannot refuse to work with or handle anyone---victim, complainant, or suspect---because of the officer's fears of possible infection. Finally, the VCUPD advises all personnel that they shall not receive discriminatory treatment nor bear any stigmas if they contract a communicable disease, which becomes known to the department. A communicable disease is a handicap under federal law, and therefore, discrimination against infected persons is illegal.


Accountability Statement

All employees are expected to fully comply with the guidelines and timelines set forth in this written directive. Failure to comply will result in appropriate corrective action. Responsibility rests with the division commander to ensure that any violations of policy are investigated and appropriate training, counseling and/or disciplinary action is initiated.



  1. COMMUNICABLE DISEASES – An infectious disease transmissible (as from person to person) by direct contact with an affected individual or the individual's discharges or by indirect means (as by a vector). The most prevalent infectious diseases which pose a threat of infection to department personnel are Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS), Meningitis, Tuberculosis, Herpes, Diarrhea Diseases and Hepatitis.
  2. ACQUIRED IMMUNE DEFICIENCY SYNDROME (AIDS) – A blood-borne and sexually transmitted disease that attacks and destroys the body's immune system. It makes people susceptible to infections, malignancies, and diseases not generally life threatening to persons with normal immune systems. AIDS also causes disorders of the central nervous system. At this time, there is no vaccine against the virus. NOTE: AIDS is not transmitted through sneezing, coughing, spitting, non-sexual physical contact such as handshakes or hugging, shared contact with toilet seats, bathtubs, or showers, use of various utensils such as dishes or linens used by persons with AIDS, articles worn or handled by persons with AIDS such as doorknobs, pens or cups, being and/or eating nearby someone with AIDS frequently or over a long period of time such as in the same home or workplace.
  3. AIDS-RELATED COMPLEX (ARC) – A condition caused by the AIDS virus (HIV) has a specific set of symptoms such as persistent fever, weight loss, skin rashes, diarrhea, and swollen lymph nodes. Although these symptoms may be debilitating, they are generally not life threatening.
  4. HUMAN IMMUNODEFICIENCY VIRUS (HIV) - The virus that causes AIDS. HIV infects and destroys certain white blood cells, undermining the body's ability to combat infection.
  5. SEROPOSITIVITY – The term describing a person possessing HIV antibodies whereby the infection has occurred at some point in the past. A seropositive person can be infected with HIV for years without ever developing symptoms of AIDS. Infected persons can transmit the virus even though they may not exhibit AIDS symptoms.
  6. HEPATITIS B (SERUM HEPATITIS) – A viral infection that can result in jaundice, cirrhosis, and sometimes cancer of the liver. The virus is transmitted through exposure to blood, semen, or vaginal secretions and many other body fluids. A vaccine is currently available against Hepatitis B (Recombivax synthetic).
  7. TUBERCULOSIS – A bacterial disease that is primarily spread by inhaling airborne droplets from infected coughing people. It can enter the body through infected mucous on the skin (from coughing) or from droplets that are inhaled. It is an airborne, opportunistic disease and primarily causes lung infection. Although no vaccine against tuberculosis exists, medications are available to treat the disease.


Communicable Disease Program

  1. The Training Division sergeant shall coordinate the VCUPD Communicable Disease Program. As such, the Training Division sergeant shall be responsible for the inventory, dissemination, and ordering of supplies for communicable disease control.
  2. The Training Division sergeant shall be responsible for periodic training/retraining of department members and the maintenance of related records of all employees.
  3. The Training Division sergeant shall ensure that the Training Division maintains a record for each employee detailing incidents of occupational exposure including information on vaccination status, the results of examinations and tests and any other relevant information. These records are retained in a secure storage location for the duration of tenure of employment plus 30 years and shall not be disclosed or reported without the expressed written consent of the employee.
  4. All records dealing with communicable disease exposure shall be kept strictly confidential by the Training Division sergeant. All follow-up medical testing and treatment shall be coordinated with the Training Division sergeant, the appropriate first line supervisor and VCU Employee Health.The Chief of Police and the Training Division sergeant shall ensure that adequate supplies are available for communicable disease control within the department.
  5. Communicable disease control kits shall include:
    1. Disposable latex gloves (3)
    2. Disposable face mask (1)
    3. Absorbent disposable towels (6)
    4. Disposable plastic bags with contaminated material (3)
    5. Alcohol-based cleaner (1)
    6. CPR shield (1)
    7. Wrap-around safety goggles (1)
    8. Carrying bag with zipper closure (1)
    9. Disposable shoe coverings (1)
    10. Supply of disposable latex gloves
    11. Orange/red plastic biohazard bags and tape, or plastic bags and sealing ties
    12. Disposable towels/towelette
    13. Bucket, mops, available in proximity


Prevention of Exposure

  1. The objective of prevention is to establish protective measures, which prevent or reduce the risk of direct exposure of department personnel to infectious diseases. These diseases can be categorized into two exposure risks:
    1. Those diseases that may be contracted via the respiratory route, Tuberculosis or direct contact with the saliva, Meningococcal Meningitis.
    2. Those diseases that may be contracted through direct contact with body fluids such as blood, saliva, mucous membrane secretions, urine, feces and intimate sexual contact, Diarrhea, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and AIDS. Herpes is not transmitted through direct contact with these fluids, but transmitted via lesion drainage.


Precautionary and Protective Guidelines

  1. The level of protection and precautions taken by Department personnel against infectious diseases should be based on subject or situation evaluation and good judgment. While anyone can be infectious, some groups within the population are at a higher risk than others. When a subject is known or suspected of having an infectious disease or there is risk of an exposure, Department personnel shall take protective and precautionary measures.
    1. Any Department employee who has a cut, abrasion, rash, wound, etc. on his/her skin shall use extreme caution while conducting a search or making an arrest or rendering assistance to any person who is suspected of having an infectious disease. Personnel shall cover these areas on the skin with clean dry bandages to create a "self-help" barrier against infection.
    2. Avoid contact with open skin lesions of infected persons and avoid contact with body fluids and blood of persons suspected of having infectious diseases.
    3. Extraordinary care shall be taken to avoid accidental wounds from sharp instruments contaminated with infectious materials such as hypodermic needles, knives, etc. These items shall be stored in disposable sharps containers for proper disposal via the Property & Evidence Unit.
    4. All authorized personal protective equipment shall be purchased through the officer’s operation. Disposable protective equipment, rubber gloves, disposable coveralls and CPR pocket masks, is recommended for use by Department personnel. In an emergency situation, the patient or subject contact may have to begin without this protective equipment.
    5. Rubber gloves shall be worn when searching or rendering assistance to persons suspected of having an infectious disease. Gloves shall be worn to avoid skin contact with blood, specimens containing blood, blood-soiled items, body fluids, excretions and secretions, as well as, surfaces and objects exposed to contamination. If there is a potential for exposure to the sources listed above, it is recommended that gloves be worn, even in the absence of any additional evidence suggesting contamination.
    6. FRubber gloves shall be removed and turned inside out as soon as exposure is terminated. Hands shall be washed thoroughly after handling persons suspected of having an infectious disease, especially if they become contaminated with blood or other body secretions. Hand washing is recommended even if gloves have been worn. A soap that produces lather is preferred over an abrasive soap. CAREFUL HAND WASHING IS PROBABLY THE MOST IMPORTANT AND EFFECTIVE METHOD OF PREVENTING THE SPREAD OF VARIOUS INFECTIOUS DISEASES.
    7. Disposable coveralls are recommended if clothing is subject to being soiled with blood or other body fluids.
    8. When performing Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR), the pocket mask with a one-way valve is recommended, if exposure of mouth to blood or saliva is likely. After use, the one way mouth valve and the mask should be disposed of properly.
    9. Soiled or used disposable gloves, coveralls, CPR pocket masks and emergency blankets shall be placed in a biohazard bag and transported by the ambulance with the subject to the Hospital or Medical Examiner’s office for disposal.
    10. Soiled clothing shall be removed as soon as possible, placed in the biohazard bag and transported to Property & Evidence for disposal by the contracted vendor.
    11. Clean up blood and other body fluid spills on persons, clothing, and in vehicles with soap, water and a 1:10 solution of bleach and water (dilute 1 part bleach to 10 parts water). WEAR GLOVES DURING THIS PROCEDURE. This bleach/water solution will be mixed and stored in an approved container at the Precincts in the designated area. It shall not be stored in the vicinity of any type of food product. The container shall be labeled with a poison insignia and the words “Diluted Bleach” written conspicuously across the front of the container.
    12. Department personnel who are the victims of human bites shall immediately encourage the wound to bleed by applying pressure and "milking" the wound.
    13. Department personnel who are the victims of human bites shall immediately (or as soon as practical thereafter):
      1. Wash the area thoroughly with soap and hot water.
      2. Respond to VCU Employee Health for medical treatment.


Reporting Procedures

  1. Reporting exposure to infectious diseases has the same requirements as for any injury.
  2. It is important to obtain all the medical information available on the patient or subject suspected of having any infectious disease in order that an evaluation can be made by Employee Health.
  3. This information shall be obtained by the officer involved (if possible) or the supervisor investigating the exposure and recorded on an Administrative Report, the VCUPD-61 Accident Report for Worker’s Compensation Claim, and the VCUPD62 Physician Selection form (when applicable).
  4. The supervisor investigating the infectious disease exposure or human bite shall ensure that the arrestee is asked to submit to a blood test, which shall be performed at MCV by qualified personnel.
  5. If the arrestee refuses to consent to a blood test, the supervisor shall obtain the assistance of the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office in pursuing any legal means available to compel submission. See §32.1-45.2 and §18.2-62 of the Code of Virginia for specific procedure in such a case. This information shall be recorded on the administrative report, indicating whether or not the arrestee consented to the test and where the test was conducted.
  6. An exposure is defined as contact by a needle stick, open cut, burn or abrasion contaminated by bodily materials such as blood, pus, saliva, urine, semen or stool, known ingestion of such materials, active coughing by subject directly into the face or body fluid splashed into the eyes or a human bite.
  7. The mere presence by Department personnel in the same area with an infected subject does not constitute an exposure.
  8. Only an actual exposure shall be reported and require the appropriate medical treatment to be obtained.
  9. All follow-up medical testing and treatment shall be coordinated with the first line supervisor and VCU Employee Health.


Related Forms

  1. Administrative Report
  2. VCUPD-61 Accident Report for Worker’s Compensation Claim
  3. VCUPD-62 Physician Selection form


Revision History

None - New policy