Zika Virus: OSHA and NIOSH Guidance for Protecting Workers

zikaThe Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) are providing interim guidance for employers and workers with information on preventing occupational exposure to the Zika virus.

The Organizations are monitoring the Zika virus outbreak spreading through Central and South America, Mexico, and parts of the Caribbean, including U.S. territories.

Some U.S. states have mosquitoes that can become infected with and spread Zika virus, and travel associated Zika virus infections in U.S. states may result in local spread of the virus. Visit the CDC Areas with Zika website to learn where there is a current transmission.

Workers who are exposed on the job to mosquitoes or the blood or other body fluids of infected individuals may be at risk for occupationally acquired Zika virus infection.

Zika virus is primarily spread through the bites of infected mosquitoes. Mosquitoes can become infected when they bite infected persons and can then spread the Zika virus to other persons they subsequently bite.

Current science-based evidence suggests that approximately one out of five infected people develops symptoms of Zika virus, usually beginning 2-7 days after the bite of an infected mosquito. Symptoms are usually mild and can last 2–7 days.

The most common symptoms from a bite from the Aedes aegypti mosquito, (or yellow fever mosquito), pictured here, are fever, rash, joint pain and red or pink eye. Employers can inform workers about their risks of exposure to Zika virus through mosquito bites and train them how to protect themselves.

According to the interim guide, employers and workers in healthcare settings and laboratories should follow good infection control and biosafety practices (including universal precautions) as appropriate, to prevent or minimize the risk of transmission of infectious agents (e.g., Zika virus). Always follow universal precautions for potential BBP exposures, as described in OSHA’s BBP standard (29 CFR 1910.1030).