How to protect workers from Zika exposure

OSHA offers interim guidance on Zika protection for workers

Posted August 5, 2016

The outbreak of Zika that has spread through Central and South America, Mexico, and parts of the Caribbean has reached the United States mainland, with locally-transmitted cases now reported in Florida. Now that we know the virus is here, OSHA reminds employers and workers to take steps to prevent or minimize the risk of Zika infection, especially for those working outdoors.

OSHA offers interim guidance to protect workers who are outdoors, involved in mosquito control operations, in affected health care facilities and laboratories, or travel to Zika-affected areas. Developed in partnership with NIOSH, the guidance also links to the most up-to-date CDC information on potential health effects and reproductive outcomes associated with Zika infection.

Tips for preventing Zika and other mosquito-borne diseases include:

  • When working outdoors, wear clothing that covers the hands, arms, legs, and other exposed skin. Wear a hat with mosquito netting to protect the face and neck. Lightweight, loose-fitting clothing may be best in warm weather to help avoid heat illness.
  • Use insect repellent with an EPA-registered active ingredient, and always follow label precautions and manufacturer instructions for use.
  • Get rid of sources of standing water (tires, buckets, cans, bottles, barrels) whenever possible to reduce or eliminate mosquito breeding areas.
  • Talk to your supervisor(s) about any outdoor work assignment(s) if you are or your sexual partner is pregnant or may become pregnant. Such workers should be familiar with CDC information on Zika virus and pregnancy.

OSHA’s website also provides a Spanish version of the interim guidance, and a QuickCard for outdoor workers in English and Spanish.

Although the Zika virus is generally spread by the bites of infected mosquitoes, exposure to an infected person’s blood or other body fluids may also result in transmission. Evidence suggests that about one out of five people infected with the virus develops symptoms that can start 2-7 days after the bite of an infected mosquito. Zika symptoms are typically mild and can last 2-7 days with the most common symptoms including fever, rash, joint pain and red or pink eyes. Other symptoms include muscle pain and headache.

Workers should see their health care provider if they develop symptoms of Zika, particularly if they live or work in an area with active Zika transmission or have recently visited an area where Zika is found.

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