Water Well Journal

July 2016

Water Well Journal

Issue link: https://read.dmtmag.com/i/692787

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Page 63 of 87

F or only the fourth time in history, the World Health Organization declared the spread of a disease to be a "public health emergency of international concern." The Zika virus joins the H1N1 pandemic (2009), the spread of polio (2014), and the Ebola outbreak (2014) in achieving this designation. Outdoor workers may be at the greatest risk of exposure to Zika virus. The Occupational Safety and Health Administra- tion and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health are monitoring the Zika virus outbreak spreading through Central and South America, Mexico, and parts of the Caribbean, including U.S. territories. The latest estimates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show the Zika virus has now spread to 29 coun- tries, and the World Health Organization estimates 3 to 4 mil- lion people across the Americas will be infected with the virus in the next year. Public health officials say there is no question Zika will be- come active in the United States with the onset of mosquito season, already underway in 27 states that are home to the mosquito expected to be the primary carrier in the U.S. The Gulf Coast states are most at risk for local transmis- sion of Zika, CDC officials have said. However, the Aedes ae- gypti mosquito, the main mosquito species that transmits the Zika virus, ranges as far north as San Francisco, Kansas City, and New York City. OSHA, together with the CDC, has published a fact sheet for employers on protecting workers from workplace expo- sure to the Zika virus. In late April 2016, the two agencies published: Interim guidance for outdoor workers, healthcare and labo- ratory workers, mosquito control workers, and business travelers to protect against occupational exposure to the Zika virus. Interim guidance and recommendations for employers to use to protect their workers. Interim guidance and recommendations for workers to con- sider protecting themselves from mosquito bites and expo- sure to an infected person's blood or other body fluids. OSHA's fact sheet, Interim Guidance for Protecting Work- ers from Occupational Exposure to Zika Virus, is not a stan- dard or regulation, and it creates no new legal obligations. It provides only recommendations to assist employers in provid- ing a safe and healthful workplace. Zika Virus Infection in Humans Current science-based evidence suggests one out of five infected people develops symptoms of Zika virus, usually beginning two to seven days after the bite of an infected mos- quito. Symptoms are usually mild and can last two to seven days. The most common symptoms of Zika virus infection are fever, rash, joint pain, and red or pink eyes. Other symptoms include muscle pain and headache. During the first week of infection, Zika virus can be de- tected in the blood and is capable of being spread from an in- fected person to a mosquito feeding on that person. Infected mosquitoes can then spread the virus to other people through bites. In some instances, having direct contact with infectious blood or other body fluids (such as semen) of an infected per- son may result in transmission of the virus. Zika virus can be spread from a pregnant woman to her fetus and has been linked to a serious birth defect of the brain called microcephaly in babies of mothers who had Zika virus while pregnant. Other problems have been detected among fetuses and infants infected with Zika virus before birth, such as absent or poorly developed brain structures, defects of the eye, hearing deficits, and impaired growth. Zika Virus and Outdoor Workers OSHA's fact sheet contains recommended actions by em- ployers for outdoor workers and guidance for employers of workers with suspected or confirmed Zika. According to the fact sheet, workers who are exposed on the job to mosquitoes or the blood or other body fluids of in- fected individuals may be at risk for occupationally acquired Zika virus infection. Employers should train workers about their risks of expo- sure to Zika virus through mosquito bites and direct contact with infectious blood and other body fluids and how to protect themselves. Employers should also provide information about Zika virus infection, including modes of transmission and possible links to birth defects. Employer Responsibility OSHA specifically recommends the following employer actions: Inform workers about risks of exposure to Zika virus through mosquito bites and how to protect themselves. ALEXANDRA WALSH PROTECTING AGAINST OCCUPATIONALLY ACQUIRED ZIKA VIRUS It's important to know the precautions during mosquito season. SAFETY MATTERS waterwelljournal.com 62 July 2016 WWJ ZIKA continues on page 64

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