In 2015, for the first time, cases of Zika virus infection emerged in the Americas and the Caribbean. In the past, Zika virus historically had been found in Africa, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. The virus, named for its discovery in the Zika Forest in Uganda in 1947, poses an ongoing risk to employers and employees alike.
While the virus hasn’t spread over much of the mainland United States, many workers may have to travel to Zika-affected areas in the course of their jobs. Airlines, cruise ships, travel agencies or any business that involves frequent travel to Zika-affected areas could put employees at an elevated risk of contracting the virus. Use these guidelines to educate yourself and your employees about Zika virus and how to reduce the chances of contracting it.
Traveling to Zika-Affected Areas
Employers should consider allowing flexibility in required travel for workers who are concerned about Zika virus exposure. Flexible travel and leave policies may help control the spread of the virus, especially for workers who are concerned about the reproductive effects potentially associated with Zika virus infection.
Consider delaying travel to Zika-affected areas, especially for workers who are or may become pregnant or whose sexual partners may become pregnant. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that pregnant women in any trimester not travel to an area with active Zika virus transmission. The CDC has published Zika Travel Information by region, which may assist workers and employers in making travel-related decisions or implementing precautions when traveling. Pregnant women, women who may become pregnant, and men with sexual partners who are or may become pregnant should consult with their health care providers about risks associated with Zika virus infection during pregnancy. More information can also be found on the CDC’s Zika and Pregnancy website.
Even if they do not feel sick, travelers returning to the United States from Zika-affected areas should take steps to prevent mosquito bites for three weeks so they do not pass Zika to mosquitoes that could spread the virus to other people. The CDC provides information on mosquito bite prevention for travelers.
Consider delaying travel to Zika-affected areas, especially for workers who are or may become pregnant or whose sexual partners may become pregnant.
Stay Up to Date
Government and health care officials are working diligently to counteract and control the spread of Zika virus. Count on your partners at Odell Studner to keep you up to date on this and other risks that could affect the safety of your employees.