Mosquitos are a part of summer, particularly if you work outdoors.
But with mosquito bites come a risk for contracting the Zika virus, which is primarily spread through the bites of infected mosquitos.
Over the past year, Zika has been predominantly found in areas of Central and South America, Mexico and some areas of the Caribbean. The virus has been particularly prevalent in Brazil, which has led to concerns about the safety of the upcoming Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
While there have been few Zika infections in the continental United States, some experts predict that the virus could spread. According to the state Department of Health and media reports, nearly 200 people in New York state have contracted the Zika virus. Many of the confirmed cases have been found after travel to regions outside the United States where there have been Zika outbreaks.
Here is some information from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health and the Centers of Disease Control of what Zika is, the risks of the virus and what your employer should do to keep you safe from mosquito bites and potential exposure to Zika.
What is Zika?
The Zika virus is primarily spread through the bite of infected mosquitos, with the aedes species, found on all continents except Antarctica, the most common carrier of the virus. Mosquitoes become infected by biting infected people. As The Canary went to press, there were 14 known mosquito transmitted Zika cases in Florida.
Common Zika symptoms
For most people, Zika virus symptoms are mild and last between two to seven days. Common symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain, red or pink eyes, muscle pain and headache.
The virus, however, is far more dangerous to pregnant women and women who may become pregnant, as Zika can cause birth defects in fetuses, including microcephaly, a condition in which a baby’s head is smaller than normal because the brain hasn’t developed properly. Because the virus can be sexually transmitted, the partners of these women also need to be especially cautious.
For more information visit cdc.gov/zika
What employers should do
- Inform workers about the Zika virus and potential exposure risks, particularly if the work site is in a Zika-infected area or if a worker was exposed in such an area.
- Provide training about the risks of mosquito bites, as well as protective clothing and equipment, including clothing that covers all exposed skin (gloves, long pants and long-sleeved shirts), and hats with mosquito netting to protect faces and necks.
- Provide workers with insect repellent containing active ingredients registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), including DEET and piccaridin, and direct workers to apply these repellents based on label instructions.
- Urge workers to wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing, which protects against the sun and provides a barrier to mosquitoes.
- Provide workers with adequate shade and water, and monitor them for exposure to mosquitoes and other potential hazards of working outdoors.
- Remove sources of standing water, including buckets and cans, to reduce mosquito breeding areas.
- Reassign any employee who is pregnant, may become pregnant or a partner of a woman who is pregnant or plans to become pregnant, to duties that would reduce