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How to Protect Outdoor Workers by Preventing and Controlling the Spread of the Zika Virus

By Mark Tartaglia
Published: August 9, 2017 | Last updated: March 1, 2018 02:36:26
Presented by DuPont™ Personal Protection
Key Takeaways

Preventing mosquito bites is the best way to control the spread of the Zika virus.

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Mosquitoes are a nuisance. But with the Zika virus on many people's minds, some outdoor workers and their employers are worried that those bug bites are not only bothersome, but downright dangerous.

In this article, we'll give an overview of the Zika virus and what you can do to protect employees who might be exposed to it.

Spreading the Virus

Aedes mosquitoes become carriers of Zika once they bite someone infected with the virus. These carrier mosquitoes can then transfer the virus to other individuals by biting them in turn.


While most of the spread has been through mosquito bites, there are some reported cases of transmission between humans, either through childbirth, blood transfusion, or sexual contact. But by far the best way to prevent the spread of Zika is to stop it at its source: mosquito bites.

Risks Associated with the Zika Virus

The Zika virus is known to be the cause of a relatively mild disease, known simply as Zika virus disease, whose symptoms include:

  • Mild fever
  • Skin rashes
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Malaise or headache that normally last two to seven days

The infection, however, is often benign. A majority of those who are infected never show any signs or symptoms.

Zika viral infection, however, has also been potentially linked to more serious conditions. While there is no conclusive proof, it is thought to lead to microcephaly in infants born to infected mothers and Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare neurological disorder characterized by muscle weakness and, sometimes, paralysis.

Measures to Contain the Spread of Zika

The World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control have issued recommendations to prevent he spread of the Zika virus by containing the growth of the Aedes mosquito population.

This involves, first, eliminating or treating their breeding environments. Aedes mosquitoes lay eggs in standing water, even in the water that accumulates in bird baths, discarded tires, and empty cans. Efforts are taken to reduce the number of these small breeding grounds by, for example, regulations banning outdoor water-holding containers or mandating lids for those that cannot be removed.

Second, the adult population is controlled by applying pesticides during mosquito season, if the presence of Zika has been detected.

Protecting Workers

While you can take measures to ensure that no still water collects on your work site, or that any outdoor receptacle remains covered, Zika-infected mosquitoes might still be able to reach and infect your workers. This is especially the case if you work in an industry, such as logging or on-site construction, in which you have little control over the work environment.

To further protect your workers, you can consider applying pesticides to the work environment. Make sure that anyone applying pesticides is wearing the appropriate PPE. These will include, at a minimum:

  • Waterproof and chemical-resistant gloves
  • Chemical-resistant garments
  • Goggles or face shield
  • Respirator

Your actual PPE needs are likely to be greater. Perform a thorough hazard assessment of the tasks and the environment before settling on the appropriate protective gear.

Pesticides also come in a number of varieties, including:

  • Dry powder
  • Granules
  • Solutions
  • Suspensions
  • Emulsions

In addition, the pesticides might use a carrier liquid such as mineral oil, kerosene, diesel fuel, and xylene. In any case, be sure to factor in the actual composition of the pesticide and any additional hazards it may pose when outfitting your workers.

Give Your Outdoor Workers Peace of Mind

The Zika virus is a serious concern for anyone whose work takes them outdoors. By doing what you can to protect your workers and contain the spread of the virus on your job sites, you will allow your employees to do their job with peace of mind.

This article is written and edited by Safeopedia and its staff. It is based on a technical bulletin on DuPont™ SafeSPEC™ which you can find here.


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Written by Mark Tartaglia | Safety Expert

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Mark Tartaglia, MSPH, CIH has almost thirty years of experience working in the occupational and environmental health and safety (OEHS) field, primarily in the pharmaceutical, chemical and environmental services industries. He began his career as a research scientist before attending graduate school to acquire technical training in occupational/environmental health and industrial hygiene. His diverse experience includes leading the development of OEHS programs and processes from entrepreneurial start-ups to Fortune 500 organizations. In particular, he has subject matter expertise in industrial hygiene, risk assessment and the implementation of effective employee exposure controls.

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