Employers should protect employees from Zika exposure

by Mandy Hicks

construction workerEmployees who spend their days outside are exposed to potential bug and pest bites. The latest threat from mosquitos is the Zika virus. Employers who have workers outside for a large portion of the day have a duty to warn employees of the dangers from Zika, the Centers for Disease Control says. The CDC recently published guidelines explaining what employers should do.

Zika-infected mosquitos have been found in the U.S. in Southern Florida. That is expected to spread as the disease becomes more prevalent, and as people travel and are bitten by mosquitos. potentially bringing the disease home with them.

Those bitten by a Zika-carrying mosquito can contract the virus, which can cause a devastating birth effect: microcephaly. That causes infants to be born with a smaller than normal head, which is often paired with other birth defects and developmental issues. Babies born with microcephaly may have seizures, problems with movement, decreased intellectual abilities, and problems with vision and hearing. Outside of causing birth defects, the Zika virus usually causes few symptoms, if any, the Centers for Disease Control notes.

The CDC’s guidance for outdoor workers includes providing employees with effective bug repellent and reassigning pregnant workers to indoor duties until the threat of Zika passes. Health care and laboratory workers are cautioned not to handle anything sharp that has been used on a Zika-infected patient, including needles, and to wash hands frequently.

The full list of precautions for employers is available on the CDC web site here. A comprehensive guide to Zika can be found on the CDC web site here.

If you would like guidance on what to say to employees about Zika and potential exposure, please contact one of our employment attorneys at (270) 781-6500.