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Workplace illness: Outdoor workers exposed to Zika virus

California workers who spend long hours working in the outdoors are exposed to more than just the danger of heat exhaustion. Another workplace illness outdoor workers will be exposed to this summer is infection by the Zika virus. This virus is borne by mosquitos and can be transmitted sexually.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Centers for Disease Control are warning workers and urging employers to provide adequate protection. Symptoms of Zika may appear approximately one week after an infected mosquito had bitten an individual. They include rash, fever, red eyes and joint pain. In most cases, the symptoms are not recognized as Zika because they are flu-like and do not typically require hospitalization.

However, it is not insignificant. Indeed, federal health officials report that Zika can cause birth defects in babies, and the World Health Organization says there is evidence that it may also cause temporary paralysis in adults, called Guillain-Barre. The CDC and OSHA released guidelines for company owners, supervisors and employees who have to work outdoors. Employers are urged to explain the risks of Zika infections to their workers and teach them about protection against mosquito bites.

California workers may want to take particular note of their health this summer. Symptoms must be reported to doctors for evaluation to ensure timely treatment if necessary. If a workplace illness causes time off work, medical care or hospitalization, a worker can pursue compensation. Benefits claims may be filed with the state’s workers’ compensation insurance program and typically cover a percentage of lost wages along with all medical expenses related to the illness.

Source:, “CDC, OSHA Issue Guidance For Protecting Workers From Occupational Exposure To Zika“, April 26, 2016