How to protect workers from Zika exposure
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 four locally-transmitted cases reported in Florida on Friday.
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 has resources to help workers and employers avoid Zika and stay healthy, including 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 the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 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.
Although 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.
See your health care provider if you develop symptoms of Zika, particularly if you live or work in an area with active Zika transmission or have recently visited an area where Zika is found.