Protecting Healthcare Workers From Zika Virus

Healthcare Purchasing News

Employers and workers in healthcare settings and laboratories should follow good infection control and biosafety practices (including universal precautions) as appropriate, to prevent or minimize the risk of transmission of infectious agents (e.g., Zika virus). Always follow universal precautions for potential bloodborne pathogen (BBP) exposures, as described in OSHA's BBP standard (29 CFR 1910.1030).

In healthcare, standard precautions can be used to expand the universal precautions required by the BBP standard by adding several protections (including expanded PPE) not covered by the BBP standard. Standard precautions include, but are not limited to, hand hygiene and the use of PPE to avoid direct contact with blood and other potentially infectious materials, including laboratory specimens/samples. PPE may include gloves, gowns, masks and eye protection.

Hand hygiene consists of washing with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand rubs containing at least 60 percent alcohol. Soap and water are best for hands that are visibly soiled. Perform hand hygiene before and after any contact with a patient, after any contact with potentially infectious material, and before putting on and upon removing PPE, including gloves.

Laboratories should ensure that their facilities and practices meet the appropriate Biosafety Level (BSL) for the type of work being conducted (including the specific biological agents - in this case, Zika virus) in the laboratory. CDC has specific Biosafety Guidance for the Transportation of Specimens and for Work with Zika virus in the Laboratory.

  • Follow workplace standard operating procedures (e.g., workplace exposure control plans) and use the engineering controls and work practices available in the workplace to prevent exposure to blood or other potentially infectious materials.
  • Do NOT bend, recap, or remove contaminated needles or other contaminated sharps. Properly dispose of these items in closable, puncture-resistant, leakproof, and labeled or color-coded containers.
  • Use sharps with engineered sharps injury protection (SESIP) to avoid sharps-related injuries.
  • Report all needlesticks, lacerations, and other exposure incidents to supervisors as soon as possible.

Employers should consider enhanced precautions in situations where workers are at increased risk of exposure to Zika virus or other hazards. CDC recommends healthcare workers use standard precautions during patient care regardless of suspected or confirmed Zika infection status. While there is no evidence of Zika transmission through aerosol exposure, minimizing the aerosolization of blood or body fluids as much as possible during patient care or laboratory tasks may help prevent workers from being exposed to other pathogens. Additional protections, including engineering controls to ensure containment of pathogens or enhanced PPE to prevent or reduce exposure, may be necessary during any aerosol generating procedures or other such tasks.

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