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OSHA and NIOSH offer guidance on protecting workers from Zika exposure

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Washington – Newly released interim guidance from OSHA and NIOSH urges employers to train employees on the risks of exposure to the Zika virus and outlines protective measures.

The virus is primarily spread through mosquito bites. At-risk employees include those who may be exposed to mosquitoes, such as mosquito-control workers, other outdoor workers and people who travel for business; as well as health care and laboratory workers who may be exposed to the bodily fluids of infected individuals.

Outdoor workers may have the highest exposure risk to the Zika virus, according to the guidance. These workers, along with health care workers and those who handle insecticides, may need additional protection such as personal protective equipment. Employers must follow OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogens Standard and relevant requirements in the agency’s PPE standards. The guidance also recommends that employers try to be flexible when workers must travel to areas affected by the virus.

The agencies state that the guidance will be updated as new information becomes available.

The Zika virus was found in the Americas and the Caribbean in 2015. Symptoms include fever, rash and joint pain. The virus, which can spread from a pregnant woman to her fetus, has been linked to a serious birth defect of the brain known as microcephaly

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