Chances are that unless you have been living off the grid, you have heard of the Zika virus and some of the threats it poses. It’s all too easy to believe the news headlines designed to grab attention, but not always an accurate depiction of risk:
“Zika virus comes to the United States”
“Scientists warn Zika spreading”
“What you don’t know about Zika could put you at risk.”
“Local communities brace themselves for Zika.”
“Mosquito season could be deadly thanks to Zika virus.”
So what exactly is the Zika virus? What are the real risks associated with it? What if any threat does it pose here in the United States? And what role do commercial cleaning companies and janitorial services play in helping make facilities cleaner and safeguarded against ALL viruses and disease causing pathogens?
So What Exactly Is The Zika Virus?
According to he CDC (Centers for Disease Control), the Zika virus is a disease that spreads to people chiefly through mosquitos, specifically the Aedes species of mosquito. If the mosquito itself is infected with Zika, it can transmit the virus. Among the most widespread symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis. Most often, the illness is mild and many people may not even realize they are sick. Although the illness is generally not serious, the Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly, in addition to other severe fetal brain defects. After an individual has been infected, he or she is typically protected from future infections.
What Are The Real Risks Associated With The Zika Virus?
The single greatest health risk is that Zika can be spread from a pregnant woman to her fetus causing severe birth defects. There are also an increased amount of cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome in areas affected by Zika. Guillain-Barré syndrome is a disorder in which the body's immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system. As no vaccine exists to prevent Zika virus disease, the current focus is on prevention measures. Prevention measure include avoiding mosquito bites. According to the CDC, when in areas with Zika, the following measures can help protect you.
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
- Opt for places with air conditioning, windows and door screens to keep mosquitoes out.
- Take measures to control mosquitoes inside and outside your residence.
- Use mosquito netting if you are overseas or outside and are not able to protect yourself from mosquito bites.
- Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents with one of the following active ingredients: DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or para-menthane-diol. Choosing an EPA-registered repellent ensures the EPA has evaluated the product for effectiveness. When used as directed, EPA-registered insect repellents are proven safe and effective, even for pregnant and breast-feeding women.
- Always follow the product label instructions.
- Reapply insect repellent as directed.
- Do not spray repellent on the skin under clothing.
- If you are also using sunscreen, apply sunscreen before applying insect repellent.
- Do not use insect repellent on babies younger than 2 months old.
- Do not use products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol on children younger than 3 years old.
- Dress your child in clothing that covers arms and legs.
- Cover crib, stroller, and baby carrier with mosquito netting.
- Do not apply insect repellent onto a child’s hands, eyes, mouth, and cut or irritated skin.
- Adults: Spray insect repellent onto your hands and then apply to a child’s face.
- Treat clothing and gear with permethrin or purchase permethrin-treated items.
- Treated clothing remains protective after multiple washings. See product information to learn how long the protection will last.
- If treating items yourself, follow the product instructions carefully.
- Do NOT use permethrin products directly on skin. They are intended to treat clothing.
- Even if they do not feel sick, travelers returning to the United States from an area with Zika should take steps to prevent mosquito bites for 3 weeks so they do not spread Zika to mosquitoes that could spread the virus to other people.
What Threat, If Any, Does The Zika Virus Pose Here In The United States?
On February 1, 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Zika virus a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). Local transmission has been reported in many other countries and territories. Zika virus will likely continue to spread to new areas. As of yet, no local Zika cases have been reported in United States, but with the recent outbreaks in other areas of the world, the number of Zika cases among travelers visiting or returning to the United States will likely increase. These cases could lead to the local spread of the virus in some areas of the United States. Public health officials are asking home owners and businesses to help control mosquitoes this summer by cleaning up trash and other man-made containers that can collect rain water, where the insects breed. These same measures were recommended during the mosquito-borne dengue outbreak in Key West Florida.
What Role Do Commercial Cleaning Companies And Janitorial Services Play In Infection Control?
While the United States reported cases of the Zika virus have thus far all been travel related, experts suggest that these imported cases may eventually spread to local areas. The role commercial cleaning companies and janitorial services companies play in the control of the Zika virus is the same as they play in any other type of infection control. It is difficult to precisely quantify the risk of surface transmission for any infectious disease. The current opinion is Zika Virus will not persist on surfaces or spread through the water or air. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has not yet published recommendations on specific disinfectant products as environmental contamination does not appear to play a role in the spread of infection. Currently, there are no EPA registered disinfectants labeled specifically to eradicate Zika virus. Still, viruses similar to Zika tend to be susceptible to a broad range of disinfectants used to disinfect hard, non-porous surfaces so your janitorial services company should employ disinfectants they would use to prevent the spread ofother infectious diseases. Likewise, your commercial cleaning company should use standard hard surface broad spectrum disinfectants and hand hygiene.