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Protecting Outside workers from Occupational Exposure to Zika Virus

May 23, 2016

insects-820484 (1)OSHA recently released an Interim Guidance report for protecting workers from the Zika Virus.  The virus, once contained to Central & South America, Mexico and parts of the Caribbean and US territories has now reached the U.S. mainland.

Below is a synopsis of the report:


Zika virus is primarily spread through the bites of infected mosquitoes.  Mosquitoes can become infected when they bite an infected person therein is how the virus is rapidly spreading.

Current science-based evidence suggests that approximately 1 out of 5 infected people develop symptoms of Zika virus, usually beginning 2-7 days after the bite of an infected mosquito. Symptoms, usually mild and lasting 2-7 days include:  fever, rash, joint pain and red or pink eyes.  Other symptoms include muscle pain and headache.  The symptoms are similar to dengue fever.  Zika can be spread from a pregnant woman to her fetus resulting in serious birth defects.

Control and Prevention for Employees

Outdoor workers are at some of the highest risk for contracting Zika Virus – according to the OSHA report, employers should:

  • Inform workers about their risks of exposure to Zika virus through mosquito 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 EPA guidelines
  • 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.

For more information about Zika Virus please visit the CDC’s page on the virus.  Please note these are just broad informational guidelines and are not to be construed as medical advice or guidance. We encourage you to stay abreast of current updates on the Zika Virus via the CDC and OSHA.


Bryan Johnson

P&C Operations Manager

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