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Regulators issue interim Zika virus prevention advice

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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration have issued interim guidance for protecting outdoor workers, health care and laboratory workers and others from occupational exposure to the Zika virus.

The guidance, issued Friday, will continue to be updated as new information related to Zika virus transmission and its health effects becomes available, but the agencies issued several recommendations for certain classes of workers and business travelers.

For outdoor workers, for example, the agencies advise employers to inform workers about their risk of Zika exposure through mosquito bites, train them how to protect themselves and provide and encourage the use of insect repellants and clothing that covers exposed skin, including possibly hats with mosquito netting to protect the face and neck, according to the guidance. Employers with mosquito control workers should follow the same precautions for general outdoor workers, but these workers may also need additional protection, including the use of respirators if they are conducting mosquito control operations with insecticides, according to the guidance.

Health care and laboratory workers should follow good infection control and biosafety practices, including following the precautions for potential bloodborne pathogen exposures, as described in OSHA's bloodborne pathogen standard, according to the guidance. Safety practices include hand hygiene and the use of personal protective equipment to avoid direct contact with blood and other potentially infectious materials, according to the guidance.

Employers should also consider allowing flexibility in or delay required travel to areas with active Zika transmission, especially for workers who are or may become pregnant or whose sexual partners may become pregnant, according to the guidance.