#Zika Virus – A Workplace Emergency?

So I haven’t been active with this blog since the new year. Things have been really hectic and in order not to breakdown, I have decided to do things when and as I am able to. I run my mum’s school (now on a double full time basis – 10hours a day, 5 days a week). It is no joke. On top of that, I spend time on my personal site professorike.com where I design courses and help businesses get online using all my skills and techniques learnt over the years. Then HSEWise too? So yes articles will be less frequent as I don’t want to compromise on quality. So stay with me folks! Here’s an article on Zika virus inspired by a thought that hit me some days back.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recently declared the Zika Virus a public health emergency. Everyone is urged to make sure they don’t get bitten by the Aedes mosquito. I will say don’t get biiten by mosquito of any kind. These experts come up with all manner of claims – first Zika could not pass from person to person but someone has sex with his partner after returning from a Zika infested zone and his partner gets it! Then they finally tell us bodily fluids can pass on the virus. Initially it was just mosquito bite right? One day they might tell you any mosquito bite causes Zika.

The main concern about the Zika Virus is that it shrinks babies brains often causing brain damage before they even have the chance to live. I read recently of a lady who was born with Zika virus and is doing well despite some health issues plus she even plays the violin! I’m guessing she is one of the lucky few?

How on earth does it target just the brain of babies though? I just can’t get my head around it. It’s weird and an evil invention! I just don’t know why I am convinced Zika virus was invented. I have had that thought since the first time I heard of Zika virus. What a scary world we live in.

Public Health Vs Occupational Health

What really gets me is that most of the time, focus is given to only public health which is good as it targets a huge number of people. But what about occupational health? Is anyone wondering what happens to the workers who are exposed to Zika be it Aedes or bodily fluid? Let’s not forget that people infected by diseases at work, take it home and to the general public thereby causing a bigger disaster. Workers must be protected too for their sake and that of the general public.

Some scenarios

      1. When a woman gives birth, there is usually a lot of blood lost. I hear some shit themselves while pushing! If she has the Zika virus then she has put the health workers at risk of contracting it. Glove or no glove! Sometimes gloves have really tiny holes in them that are hard to see. I remember years back when I worked in a Care home, I would use a glove while attending to one of the residents and by the time I am taking it off, I realise water managed to pass through the glove. That taught me to double up!
      2. People going to the field to decontaminate are exposed to mosquito bites. These mosquitos are so swift and smart. One minute you are sitting there enjoying your life, the next you feel a sharp pain and look at the direction of the pain and see one useless mosquito has been feasting on your blood. It even happened to me recently while driving! I felt a sharp pain on my ankle, luckily I was in traffic so I reached down to touch it and the very satisfied mosquito died with my finger stained with blood. Clearly it had been sucking for a while before I noticed. I don’t know if this happens to only me but I tend to find mosquitoes in my car both during the day and at night. You dare not open the door or wind down your window, they just fly in! Makes me wonder.

Mosquitoes are everywhere. No one is safe. So dear employers, think about your workplace and workers. They need to be protected especially if Zika is already in your town or country.

How to Protect Workers from Zika Virus.

Prevention they say is better than cure but in the case of Zika, prevention is your only option as there is currently no cure for Zika nor any vaccine to prevent it. Sad times. The best we can do is make sure we protect ourselves and our workers.

  1. The number one thing is to prevent mosquito bites. Preventing mosquito bites can be through using insect killer (I love using Rambo maybe because it reminds me of the movie Rambo, since the Rambo character was a tough one – infact the toughest). When using insect killers, follow the instructions on the containers especially for extremely strong insect killers like sniper.
  2. Try to not come in contact with bodily fluids like blood, sperm, urine, excreta and saliva. Maybe even tears and sweat? Who knows?! At least those for now until the experts come up with more “findings”
  3. Keep the environment cold. In cold environments, mosquitoes tend to stay away. Use air conditioning where possible to keep the environment cool. Now in Nigeria, keeping the environments cold is going to prove a tough task for small businesses and our horrible hospitals (even the extremely large ones). Hospitals where people should go to get better, many leave with infections and malaria! LUTH is a perfect example! They don’t even have window nets in some of their wards not to talk of air conditioning. I was there recently so I know. If Zika should enter Nigeria, then be convinced many people will get it from hospital environments! Fact!
  4. There is this repellant cream currently being sold which is claimed to keep mosquitoes away once you apply it to your skin. I used one when I was in the NYSC camp as well as a mosquito net. Not sure if the repellant cream was effective or if it was the mosquito nets keeping mosquitoes away. You can try the creams – a trial will convince you (don’t be so desperate that you use insect killers on your skin).
  5. If the repellant cream doesn’t work, then try put on clothing that doesn’t expose your skin. Clothing might not be effective unless of course you are going to wear an hijab to have your face covered and gloves all the time which is highly unlikely. I think clothing is the least effective way to prevent the Zika virus. In Africa where the weather is unbearably hot, won’t this kind of clothing lead to heat stress. From one problem to another, I would say.

Well that’s it for now. I am praying earnestly for an end to all these epidemics. Hopefully a vaccine to prevent Zika Virus becomes available soon or even a cure. Till then folks, keep safe.