Mosquito season is arriving and, unfortunately, this year it brings a new threat: the Zika virus. OSHA and the CDC have just issued information to help protect workers from becoming exposed to Zika.
Zika virus is primarily spread through the bites of infected mosquitos—the same genus of mosquitos that are responsible for spreading dengue, yellow fever, chikungunya, Japanese encephalitis and West Nile. Zika can be spread anywhere these mosquitos are found, and that range is quickly moving north, and is expected to appear in the United States this summer.
Scientists estimate that only one out of five infected people develops symptoms of Zika virus, which usually begin 2-7 days after the bite of an infected mosquito. Symptoms are usually mild and include fever, rash, joint pain, red or pink eyes, muscle pain, and headache. Symptoms can last 2–7 days.
The real concern from Zika is that the virus can spread from a pregnant woman to her fetus. The virus has been linked to a serious birth defect of the brain called microcephaly. Other problems have been detected among fetuses and infants infected with Zika virus before birth, such as absent or poorly developed brain structures, defects of the eye, hearing deficits and impaired growth.
Where is Zika now?
Zika has been reported South and Central America, including Mexico and the Caribbean. Currently no mainland U.S. cases of Zika have been reported (there has been one Zika-related death in Puerto Rico), but with the recent outbreaks, the number of Zika cases among travelers visiting or returning to the United States will likely change. The CDC has a map that shows the range of the two species of mosquito associated with Zika.
Control and prevention
If your facility falls within the range of these mosquitos or your employees work outside, here are some tips offered by the CDC and OSHA to help keep your workers safe from this virus:
• Inform workers about their risks of exposure to Zika virus bites and train them how to protect themselves. Check the CDC Zika website to find Zika-affected areas.
• Provide insect repellents and encourage their use according to the guidance below.
• Provide workers with, and encourage them to wear, clothing that covers their hands, arms, legs and other exposed skin. Consider providing workers with hats with mosquito netting to protect the face and neck.
• In warm weather, encourage workers to wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing. This type of clothing protects workers against the Sun’s harmful rays and provides a barrier to mosquitoes. Always provide workers with adequate water, rest and shade, and monitor workers for signs and symptoms of heat illness.
• Get rid of sources of standing water (e.g., tires, buckets, cans, bottles, barrels) whenever possible to reduce or eliminate mosquito breeding areas. Train workers about the importance of eliminating areas where mosquitos can breed at the worksite.
• If requested by a worker, consider reassigning anyone who indicates she is or may become pregnant or who is male and has a sexual partner who is or may become pregnant, to indoor tasks to reduce their risk of mosquito bites.
CDC plans to continue to update this guidance as new information related to Zika virus transmission and related health effects becomes available, based on the accumulating evidence, expert opinion and knowledge about the risk associated with other viral infections.
Visit CDC’s Zika Virus Web page for comprehensive information and updates.
For more information of protecting the health and safety of your workers, contact Vanguard Resources.