Why to beware of Zika, even in the fall


  • Warm temperatures and plenty of water—two friends of mosquitos—are both carrying on into the fall in much of the U.S.
  • Zika is usually non-fatal, but does create flu-like systems that last a week, and can cause birth defects in pregnant women.
  • Reduce the chances of Zika infection on your job sites by getting rid of removable standing water.

Warm temperatures and plenty of water—two friends of mosquitos—are both carrying on into the fall in much of the U.S. (And with Florence leaving her watery trail, some places won’t be dry for quite some time.) One reason for serious concern, other than just itchy bites: Mosquitoes can carry the Zika virus, and on the job site, that matters.

You may live in a part of the country that makes you feel safe from Zika, but you’d be mistaken to think you aren’t at risk, even in colder states. If your workers travel to other parts of the country for work or for pleasure, Zika can affect them (also, Zika-carrying mosquitoes are making an appearance in some formerly low-mosquito-population areas, such as Southern California). So on-site protection from the virus has become a real obligation of employers.

A late-2016 report conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that locally acquired cases of Zika were found mostly in Florida. Factor in the cases where Zika was acquired due to travel, and California and New York are on the map as well. Actually, nearly every state has had reported cases.

Zika-carrying mosquitoes are showing up in some formerly low-mosquito-population areas, such as Southern California.

Who catches Zika (and how)?

Of the 5,168 confirmed or probable cases of non-congenital Zika virus disease reported to the CDC in 2016, 95 percent were travel-associated. Locally acquired disease accounted for 4 percent of the cases. One percent were acquired through other routes, including sexual transmission (45 cases), laboratory transmission (one case), and person-to-person through an unknown route (one case). Records show one fatality to this point from Zika-related complications.

The Zika virus, spread through the bites of Aedes mosquitoes, delivers symptoms that include fever, rash, joint pain, and red eye (conjunctivitis). The virus may seem particularly severe at first, and symptoms typically subside in a week. But a Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause a serious birth defect known as microcephaly, along with other severe brain defects. The median age of patients with Zika virus disease was last reported by the CDC as 37 years. Females accounted for 3,310 cases (over half); among those, 469 were in pregnant.

Spread through the bites of Aedes mosquitoes, Zika delivers symptoms that include fever, rash, joint pain, and red eye.

So how do you keep the flying Zika carriers away? Start by ridding your job site of removable sources of standing water—such as barrels, buckets, tires, bottles and cans—as standing water creates the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes. If your job site is located beside or near a body of water, you might consider treating your job site for mosquitoes.

Creating a no-Zika zone

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends that employers of outdoor workers inform their employees of the risks of exposure to the Zika virus through mosquito bites. It’s important that they are trained to protect themselves and that insect repellent is made available to them where they are working. Any workers who are exposed not only to mosquitoes but also the blood or other body fluids of infected individuals may be at risk for occupationally acquired Zika virus infection.

Wanna keep Zika away from workers? Start by ridding your job site of removable sources of standing water. Click To Tweet

“It is important for patients to recognize potential symptoms, since an individual often has either no symptoms following exposure to the virus, or symptoms similar to most other viral infections,” says Dr. Richard Mersberger, a north Georgia-based family physician. He also stresses the importance of workers taking precautions when traveling to regions with known outbreaks of the virus.

OSHA suggests that insect repellents used for protection against Zika contain an EPA-registered active ingredient for added protection. Repellents containing DEET or picaridin typically offer longer lasting protection than the other products, according to research, and oil of lemon eucalyptus can provide longer lasting protection than other plant-based repellents. Permethrin is another long-lasting repellent that can be applied to clothing and gear, but not directly to skin.

Remember to never spray aerosol or pump products in enclosed areas, and never apply them directly onto the face. You can spray it on the hands, and then spread it on the face, assuring that you avoid contact with the eyes and mouth.

Clothing provides protection, too

Clothing and other personal protective gear can deter mosquitoes as well, says OSHA. Workers should be encouraged to wear clothing that covers their hands, arms, legs, and exposed skin. Basically, stay covered, and don’t give mosquitos a place to bite you, possibly transmitting the virus.

A final suggestion from OSHA: Comply with any female worker who indicates she is or may become pregnant should that person request to work indoors. Keeping workers safe means fewer lost labor hours on your job site.

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