Mosquito-borne diseases kill more people than any other illness. Their bites can infect victims with diseases like malaria, dengue and yellow fever. In the U.S, encephalitis (EEE) and West Nile Virus (WNV) are the major diseases caused by different species of mosquitoes. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) nearly 300-1500 cases of EEE and around 650 to 1400 cases of WNV are reported each year. The risk of EEE infection is highest from late July through September.
EEE and WNV can be minor or severe. In cases where these develop as a fever, mild or fatal symptoms can be seen. Usually the symptoms appear within 4-10 days after an infected mosquito bites. Employers should train workers to identify the symptoms of both EEE and WNV, which are often similar.
The mild symptoms for EEE or WNV include:
- Stomach ache
- Body ache
- Skin rashes
- Swollen lymph glands
In critical cases, patients may have seizures, disorientation, high fever, sudden onset of headache, muscle weakness, neck stiffness, tremors, altered mental status, convulsions, paralysis, brain inflammation, meningitis or coma. In 3 out of 10 patients in critical condition, these symptoms may result in death. Those fortunate enough to survive can have brain damage for the rest of their lives.
Occupations most affected by mosquitoes
As you might imagine, outdoor workers are often more prone to infections. Farmers, gardeners, landscapers, loggers, construction workers, entomologists, biologists and others that have field jobs are at high risk for being bitten by infected mosquitoes.
Clinical and laboratory workers that handle WNV-infected fluids or tissues or perform necropsies of infected birds or animals are at higher risk of getting infected if they are accidentally exposed (through an accidental cut, mishandling an infected needlestick, or any existing open wound) to infected fluid or tissue.
It’s vital to educate workers about the hazards mosquitoes present in order to maintain an infection-free workplace. Creating awareness will not only keep workers healthier, it may also prevent productivity losses.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), employers with outdoor workers should inspect work areas where water may accumulate and get rid of standing or stagnant water where possible. Still water is the breeding ground for mosquitoes.
Employers of healthcare and laboratory workers must follow standard precautions laid out in 29 CFR 1910.1030 to prevent workers’ exposure to blood and/or other potentially infectious materials. OSHA mandates that workers at risk of infection are given proper training to handle these potential occupational hazards.
Tips to keep mosquitoes at bay:
1) Remove vegetation and leaf debris, drain temporary water pools, clean clogged roof gutters, fill in potholes or patches.
2) Dispose uncovered and unused tins, bottles, drums, buckets, tires or anything that can accumulate water. Take guidance from the local landfills.
3) Change water twice a week in animal feeders.
4) Drill holes in outside recycling containers so water may drain freely.
5) Wear long sleeved shirts, long pants, and socks to completely cover your skin. This is especially important when you are out for a longer period. Take extra care to cover yourself during morning and evenings when mosquitoes are most active.
6) Wear light-colored clothing, so you and others can spot bugs and kill them.
7) Do not wear perfumes or cologne since they attract mosquitoes.
8) Use insect repellents with DEET on only the outside of your clothing to avoid allergic reaction. Higher concentration of DEET means more protection against mosquitoes.
9) Do not spray aerosols directly on the face. Spray on hands and then gently rub on face.