Monday, the World Health Organization declared Zika virus a global public health emergency. This was issued based on the strong likelihood that the virus is linked to neurological disorders and neonatal malformations, such as microcephaly. The virus can be found in over 20 countries, which as of recently, includes the United States. It is important to educate your employees on this virus in order to prevent a substantial workforce loss. Here is what you and your employees need to know.

Zika: The Facts

The symptoms usually include a mild fever, skin rash, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, and headache. These will typically last for 2-7 days and are usually mild. However, according to the CDC, only 1 in 5 people who become infected will actually become ill. If you have recently traveled to an area where Zika has been found and are experiencing these symptoms, contact your health care provider immediately. Zika is considered a global public health emergency due to the possible link between the virus and babies born with microcephaly combined with the fact that there is so little known about Zika.

There is currently no vaccine or medications available to prevent or treat Zika infections. If you come down with the virus, treat the symptoms by getting plenty of rest and drinking fluids to prevent dehydration, along with taking common medicines to treat fever and pain. You could also try a more alternative form of pain relief, such as cannabis. For this to be the most effective, make sure that it is a strain that is high in CBD content – you can find the best CBD-high strains at https://www.canadacannabisdispensary.co/10-best-high-cbd-marijuana-strains/. It is important to prevent mosquito bites during the first week of being ill to stifle the chance of transmitting it to others.

Transmission

Aedes mosquitoes are the main transmitters of this virus. These are the same mosquitoes that transmit dengue, chikunhunya, and yellow fever. Although professionals were initially unsure of the possibility that the virus could also be transmitted through sexual intercourse, a recent case in Texas has proven this to be true. Warnings are now being issued to men whose partners are pregnant. One does not have to necessarily travel to an area that contains the Zika virus to become infected. The virus can also be transmitted by mosquitoes biting an infected person and then passing it to others through a bite.

Travel

The CDC has issued travel notices for people traveling to certain areas where cases of the Zika virus have been identified. Travel has not been restricted to these areas; however, those who plan to visit such areas should take preventative measures to ensure safety against this virus, especially women who are pregnant or plan to get pregnant. The CDC has strongly advised against pregnant women traveling to places where Zika is spreading.

If you are traveling to an area where the virus has been found and it is absolutely necessary to do so, basic precautions to protect against mosquito bites are essential to preventing infection. These precautions are:

  • When outside, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants
  • Use EPA registered insect repellents and reapply as directed
  • Stay in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens to prevent mosquitoes from entering
  • If you become infected with the virus, Zika remains in the blood stream for an unknown period of time and can be spread from person to person through a mosquito bite. Take the same above precautions to prevent spreading the virus to others.

What This Means for Your Employees

Education is key when talking to your employees about this virus. If your country were to see a severe outbreak, your workforce could be drastically reduced. The effect could be the same as a pandemic flu, with employees not being able to come to work for up to one week. Employees need to be educated on preventative measures and the consequences of traveling to a country that Zika has been found in. This will ensure, if travel is necessary, the proper steps are being taken to prevent being infected and furthering the spread of the virus. Your company should have a work from home plan in place that ensures continuity of services even with a reduced workforce in the event of an outbreak.

To learn more about the need for these plans in the event of various circumstances, including a viral infection outbreak, watch a recording of our webinar on workforce continuity. This educational and interactive webinar will feature Jonathan Trapp of the CDC and will be on Thursday, March 3rd from 2-3:00 PM EST. Jonathan is the Emergency Manager at the CDC in Atlanta, Georgia where he works to ensure the CDC’s ability to respond to any emergency that may impact a CDC facility or staff member.