Protecting Workers from the Zika Virus in the Workplace

June 30, 2016

News of the rampant spread of the zika virus has been quite disconcerting to people as we move into the summer months. Employees who work outdoors may be particularly vulnerable to contracting the disease, which is spread my mosquitos. In April, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have published interim guidance for protecting workers from exposure to the zika virus in the workplace. These guidelines include recommendations that employers provide FDA-approved insect repellent and clothing that covers exposed skin to protect workers from exposure to zika virus.

According to the CDC, zika virus disease is spread primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species of mosquito. Common symptoms of zika include fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes. The symptoms are mild and usually last only a few days. The symptoms are not severe enough to send people to the hospital, and those infected rarely die of the disease. One major complication of the disease occurs when a pregnant woman becomes infected with the virus, which can cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly and other fetal brain defects.

Vector control of zika

The best defense against the spread of zika is prevention. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), prevention and control relies on reducing mosquitoes through source reduction and reducing contact between mosquitoes and people.

Protecting outdoor workers from zika

The OSHA and CDC guidelines for protecting outdoor workers from zika exposure include the following:

  • Informing workers about their risk of exposure to zika
  • Provide EPA-approved insect repellents and encourage their use
  • Encourage workers to wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing that covers exposed skin and protects it from the sun and from mosquito bites.
  • Get rid of sources of standing water which is where mosquitos breed.
  • The CDC recommends special precautions for workers in zika transmission areas who are pregnant, or male workers, if their sexual partner is or may become pregnant, should speak to their supervisors about the safety of outdoor work assignments.
  • Visit the CDC zika website to get updated, comprehensive information about how outdoor workers can protect themselves from zika exposure.

Business travelers and zika exposure

The CDC is encouraging those who plan to travel to zika-infected areas to consider delaying their travel, especially for employees who are or may become pregnant. The CDC has issued travel guidelines for those areas of the world that have active zika transmission.

At Larry Pitt & Associates, our Philadelphia workers’ compensation lawyers help employees who have been exposed to dangerous illnesses while on the job. We invite you to call 888.PITT.LAW or fill out our contact form to make an appointment with an experienced Philadelphia workers’ compensation attorney. We proudly serve clients in Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia Counties.