First discovered in Africa in the 1950s, Zika virus has spread rapidly to the whole world. Based on the latest report by WHO (World Health Organisation), there are 69 countries or territories reporting Zika virus transmission since January 2015.
While in South-east Asia, Singapore is one of the most infected countries according to the MoH (Ministry of Health) reporting hundreds of citizens being infected by Zika virus in August 2016. Seeing this increasingly alarming pandemic, employers are urged to initiate programs to prevent Zika virus from spreading wider at the workplace.
Generally speaking, Zika virus is mosquito-borne disease transmitted by the bites of an Aedes mosquito, just like Chikungunya and dengue. Based on MoH report, there are some visible symptoms to tell if someone is infected with this virus.
The symptoms include fever, skin rashes, joint and muscle pains, headache, and red eyes. If you notice your employees or co-workers experiencing these indications within 4 to 7 days, you should be more cautious because there is a high possibility that they had been infected by Zika virus.
Given the massive spread of the Aedes mosquito, it is not surprising that outdoor workers such as healthcare and laboratory workers, as well as business travellers are at most risk of being exposed to Zika virus. Additionally, Zika is also dangerous for pregnant women because it might affect foetus development in the womb and cause microcephaly when they are born.
In order to stay safe from virus attacks, here are some ways on how you can protect the workplace from Zika virus:
Use mosquito repellent. Even if you work indoors, you still need to apply mosquito repellent for better protection. Use branded repellents that have been legally tested and those which contain active ingredients such as oil of lemon eucalyptus, picaridin, or para-menthane-diol. Follow the usage instructions as enlisted on the package. Bear in mind to apply only as necessary and avoid using it excessively, since it could be risky instead.
Wear long and covered clothing. If you work outdoor, wear long clothing that covers your arms, neck, and legs such that your body will not be bitten easily by mosquitoes. Avoid dark-coloured clothes like black and brown because it will attract mosquitoes. Instead, wear bright-coloured clothing such as white or yellow as mosquitoes hate them.
Unless you are required to work in outdoor areas, it will be better if you keep yourself hidden in a shaded area with wire-mesh screens and air conditioner to keep out mosquitoes.
Clear out standing water. Even a small pool of standing water could be the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes. Mosquitoes use a puddle of water to lay their eggs, which then develop into larvae and eventually become adult mosquitoes. Mosquitoes breed very quickly and they infect the surrounding area quickly as well.
That is why Zika virus can spread in the entire environment rapidly, especially after someone is infected. Therefore, you need to prevent the virus from spreading out, by clearing any standing water as well as areas that allow mosquitoes to swarm, such as pile of hangers and abandoned trash such as cups and soda cans.
Mosquito fogging. If necessary, you can call the health department to conduct fogging in the workplace. The health workers would know mosquito breeding grounds and spray across the areas for mosquitoes to suffocate. Although you may need to invest some money into this clearing exercise, it would only ensure better safety net for your employees.