As you’re spending summertime on your safely checked deck , hopefully you’re not as obsessed with ducks as I apparently am this year. A more important topic for summer safety huddles is West Nile Virus (WNV) prevention, particularly for workers who spend the day outdoors, but also to educate everyone who likes to spend early morning or evening hours outdoors during the summer. WNV is transmitted to humans primarily by mosquitoes which are most active during morning and evening hours. The impacts of the virus can be devastating, including permanent neurological effects or death.
After years of declining numbers, last year exhibited the highest number of confirmed WNV cases since 2003. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention documented 5,674 cases reported, including 286 deaths in 2012. Hopefully, the more normal winter pattern of 2013 will reduce the mosquito population this year. However, it’s still very important to be proactive, to take time to educate employees and to take precautions.
In the Northeast, New York was one of thirteen states where 80% of the reported cases were concentrated last year. The other states are away from our region, but all 48 continental states and several Canadian Provinces have recorded WNV cases. Every New England state reported infections in humans in 2012, and there have been over 30,000 cases of the infection in the U.S. since 1999. Everyone spending time outdoors is susceptible to possible infection.
Most human cases of WNV result from mosquito bites after the mosquito became infected by feeding on an infected bird. Being outside means that you’re at risk, and people over the age of 50 are more likely to develop serious symptoms. However, people of all ages and conditions can become severely ill. Some of the most at risk occupations include: farm workers, loggers, arborists, landscapers, groundskeepers, construction workers, street and road paving, painters, outdoor lumber yard workers, fencing installers and summer camp workers. Employers should provide training to all workers who may be working outdoors.
Training should review the symptoms of the disease, plus the potential hazards and risks of WNV exposure and infection. Minimizing the chance of being bitten by mosquitoes is one of the best ways to reduce the risk of becoming infected. Workers may use these steps to minimize the chances of being infected:
- Cover as much skin as possible by wearing shirts with long sleeves, long pants and socks whenever possible.
- Avoid perfumes and colognes as these may attract mosquitoes.
- Take extra precautions when mosquitoes are present and biting (like dawn and dusk hours). Move activities indoors when you can during the high risk times.
- Use insect repellent containing an EPA-registered active ingredient. Choose repellent concentration appropriate for the amount of time that you will be outdoors, and reapply as necessary. To avoid reaction to repellent ingredients, read and follow all directions before use. After returning indoors, use soap and water to wash skin that has been treated with insect repellent. (Information on safe repellent use can be found on U.S. EPA: How to Use Insect Repellents Safely, and CDC: Insect Repellent Use and Safety, pages.)
- Use functional screens on doors, windows or other openings. Repair or patch all holes.
- Do not touch dead birds; contact the local health department for instructions on reporting and disposal.
- Where possible, get rid of stagnant or standing water as these are potential mosquito breeding areas.
- For additional information, OSHA provides a West Nile Virus Fact Sheet and a Quick Card.
OSHA recently updated their Safety and Health Information Bulletin on Workplace Precautions Against West Nile Virus in August, 2012. It contains detailed information on the disease and its’ symptoms, how workers can protect themselves, plus precautions and control measures that employers can take. The bulletin assists employers in providing a safe and healthful workplace. It’s a timely update for the 2013 outdoor activity season approaching the northeast.
Acadia Clients may access a brief 8-minute on demand video, Mosquitoes: What You Need to Know About The West Nile Virus, Product Code MWNV, via our Loss Control Video Request Form
If you need information for non-English speaking employees, a CDC Fact Sheet is available in multiple languages.
This seasonal epidemic is about to begin; West Nile Virus cases spike up in summer and then continue into the fall. To reduce the potential of infection, Acadia Insurance recommends providing information on West Nile Virus prevention to all employees before summer gets fully underway. Employing proper prevention and precautions could help WNV become a ‘dead duck’ in terms of risk to humans.
Acadia is pleased to share this material with its customers. Please note, however, that nothing in this document should be construed as legal advice or the provision of professional consulting services. This material is for general informational purposes only, and while reasonable care has been utilized in compiling this information, no warranty or representation is made as to accuracy or completeness. Distribution of this information does not constitute an assumption by us of your obligations to provide a safe workplace. Maintaining a safe workplace in accordance with all laws is your responsibility. We make no representation or warranty that our activities or recommendations will place you in compliance with law, relieve you of potential liability or ensure your premises or operations are safe. We exercise no control over your premises or operations and have no responsibility or authority to implement loss prevention practices or procedures.