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Reduce the Threat of Zika Virus

  • Mosquitoes long have been taking a bite out of warm-weather fun. Now, that bite carries with it the danger of Zika virus.

    In recent years, Zika has appeared in parts of Africa, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands, as well as Central and South America, Mexico and the continental United States. In 2016, mosquito-borne transmission of Zika virus was reported in Miami-Dade County, FL, and Cameron County, TX, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    Who is at Risk?

    Anyone who lives in or travels to an area with Zika and has not already been infected can get the disease. Many people infected won't show any symptoms, said CDC Deputy Incident Manager Satish Pillai during a webinar hosted by the National Safety Council.

    Others will have mild symptoms, including fever, rash, conjunctivitis (Pink Eye) and muscle pain or headache. These symptoms normally last two to seven days and can be treated with rest, fluids and acetaminophen, according to the World Health Organization.

    What You Need to Know

    Zika in pregnancy can cause birth defects.

    In fact, WHO says there is scientific consensus that Zika causes microcephaly and Guillain-Barré syndrome. In infants, a small head due to abnormal brain development is the defining characteristic of microcephaly. Guillain-Barré syndrome, characterized by the body's immune system attacking the peripheral nervous system, typically affects adults. Severe cases can result in paralysis.

    Zika is transmitted primarily by Aedes mosquitoes, aggressive biters that can strike during the day and at night. In an infographic, the CDC highlights Things Everyone Needs to Know About Zika:

    • Zika can be sexually transmitted; if your partner lives in or has traveled to an area with Zika, it is recommended you abstain from sex for a period ranging from eight weeks to six months, or use a condom
    • The best way to prevent Zika is to prevent mosquito bites; use Environmental Protection Agency-registered insect repellant with DEET and wear long-sleeve shirts and long pants
    • Pregnant women should not travel to areas with Zika
    • During the first week of infection, Zika virus can be passed from an infected person to a mosquito, which can then can spread the disease to others

    Protecting Workers

    Employers need to identify those at greatest risk of Zika, including:

    • Outdoor workers
    • Business travelers
    • Cruise line workers
    • Mosquito control workers
    • Healthcare and laboratory workers

    Employers should provide education about Zika risks, supply mosquito repellant and furnish clothing treated with permethrin, an insecticide. In medical centers and labs, be sure employees strictly adhere to procedures regulating the use of needles and wear personal protective equipment – gloves, gowns, masks and eye protection.

    OSHA and NIOSH offer guidelines for protecting workers from occupational exposure to Zika virus.

    Government agencies and municipalities are urged to take responsibility, too, by enacting or renewing mosquito abatement plans. EPA-approved treatment of ponds and standing water is one of the most common ways agencies have attacked mosquito larva.

    Localized adult mosquito biological control also might include the introduction of birds, bats, dragonflies and frogs into the eco-system.

    At Home

    Everyone can protect themselves and their families from the threat of Zika and other mosquito-borne viruses, such as Dengue Fever and West Nile. Follow simple preventative measures:

    • Read product label instructions when using insect repellant and reapply as directed
    • Do not leave doors or windows propped open
    • Once a week, scrub or empty planters, birdbaths, vases and flowerpot saucers; mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water
    • Use EPA-approved indoor and outdoor flying insect spray or foggers
    • Turn on air conditioning; mosquitoes prefer warm, damp and dark spaces

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The National Safety Council eliminates preventable deaths at work, in homes and communities, and on the road through leadership, research, education and advocacy.

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