[CBS] Who Will Zika Virus Be an Occupational Hazard For?

By May 3, 2016 No Comments

CBS, 22 April 2016

Some jobs may be more risky when it comes to getting infected with the Zika virus, so health officials Friday issued interim guidelines on how employers and workers in higher risk jobs can best steer clear of the mosquito-borne illness.  

Zika has been spreading through Central and South America since last year.  It’s of concern because it’s linked to birth defects and other health issues, including a rare condition that can cause temporary paralysis, called Guillain-Barré syndrome.  

There is no vaccine to prevent the Zika virus, so for now, employers and workers need to take precautions to avoid infections, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.  

‘If you work outdoors, in a health care or lab setting, or you’re a business traveler, you may be at a higher risk for contracting the Zika virus’, said Jill Shugart, a senior environmental health specialist with the CDC.  

Zika virus is transmitted to people through bites from Aedes mosquitoes — the same mosquitoes that carry dengue virus and chikungunya.  When a mosquito bites someone who’s infected and then bites someone else, the virus can spread. It can be spread through sexual intercourse, too. Shugart said outdoor workers may be at the highest risk of exposure to the Zika virus and that employers need to educate employees about how to protect themselves.  

‘We recommend employers provide insect repellent with EPA active ingredients and encourage workers to use it,’ said Shugart.  They should teach staff about the benefits of wearing clothing that covers hands, arms, legs, heads — any exposed skin — to reduce the chances of being bitten by mosquitoes, she added.  

‘If a worker indicates they are pregnant, we encourage reassignment,’ she said, citing the birth defect concerns.”  

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