Protecting Outdoor Workers from Ticks and Mosquitoes

Outdoor workers may be exposed to vector-borne diseases spread from the bites of infected ticks and mosquitoes. Ticks and mosquitoes may carry bacteria, parasites or viruses.

One of the most common tick-borne diseases in the U.S. is Lyme disease. Ticks are found in wooded areas, high grass, or leaf litter. They are most active during the spring, summer, and fall, but in warmer areas may be active all year round.

A new study published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report found that disease cases from mosquito, tick and flea bites have tripled in the U.S. from 2004 to 2016. The National Pest Management Association is advising the public to take proper precautions to stay protected from these pests.

According to the CDC, one of the most common diseases carried by mosquitoes in the U.S. is West Nile virus infection. Mosquitoes may be found near standing water, or in weedy or wooded areas. They are usually most active during dawn and dusk in the warmer months.

Symptoms of vector-borne diseases are:

  • Body/muscle aches
  • Fever
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Joint pain
  • Rash
  • Stiff neck
  • Paralysis

NIOSH recommends the following workplace controls:

Decrease tick populations:

  • Remove leaf litter.
  • Remove, mow, or cut back tall grass and brush.
  • Discourage deer activity.

Eliminate standing water to decrease mosquito populations:

  • Remove, turn over, cover, or store equipment.
  • Remove debris from ditches.
  • Fill in areas that collect standing water.
  • Place drain holes in containers that collect water and cannot be discarded.

For the employee:

  • Wear a hat and light-colored clothing (so ticks can be easily spotted), including long-sleeved shirts and long pants tucked into boots or socks.
  • Use insect repellents.
    • Use repellents containing 20–50% DEET on exposed skin and clothing.
    • Reapply repellents as needed. (Always follow products labels).
  • Use insecticides such as permethrin for greater protection.
    • Permethrin can be used on clothing, but not on skin.
    • One application to pants, socks, and shoes may be effective through several washings.
  • Check skin and clothing for ticks daily. Check hair, underarms, and groin.
  • Immediately remove ticks using fine-tipped tweezers.
    • Grasp the tick firmly, as close to your skin as possible.
    • Pull the tick’s body away from your skin with a steady motion.
    • Clean the area with soap and water.
  • Wash and dry work clothes using the “hot” setting.