Mosquito-borne diseases are those spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. Diseases that are spread to people by mosquitoes include Zika virus, West Nile virus, Chikungunya virus, dengue, and malaria.
Employers should protect workers and workers should protect themselves from diseases spread by mosquitoes. Although people may not become sick after a bite from an infected mosquito, some people have a mild, short-term illness or (rarely) severe or long-term illness. Severe cases of mosquito-borne diseases can cause death.
Workers at Risk
Workers are at risk when they are working where mosquitoes are biting. Different species of mosquitoes are found in varying geographic locations, are most active at different times, and spread different diseases. The risk to workers varies with where they are working in the United States or elsewhere, type of habitat at the work site, season, and time of day.
Workers at risk include:
- Outdoor workers
- Business travelers who may travel to areas with mosquito-borne diseases
- Laboratory workers who may work with potentially infected samples, cultures, or arthropods
- Healthcare workers who may handle patients who are, or might be infected with certain mosquito-borne diseases. Transmission may occur through a break in their skin or via a sharp penetration injury.
- Some mosquitoes lay eggs in or near standing water. Decrease the numbers of mosquitoes at worksites by:
- removing, turning over, covering, or storing equipment
- removing debris from ditches
- filling in ruts and other areas that collect standing water
- removing tires, buckets, bottles, and barrels that collect water
- placing drain holes in containers that collect water and cannot be discarded
- Keep mosquitoes outside by ensuring that doors and windows have screens and are kept closed when possible.
- Provide training about:
- the risk of mosquito bites and how to prevent them
- symptoms of mosquito-borne diseases
- the safe use of insect repellents
- Provide workers with, and encourage them to wear, clothing that covers theirs hands, arms, legs, and other exposed skin. Consider providing hats with mosquito netting to protect the face and neck.
- Provide Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellentexternal icon with one of the active these ingredients: DEET, picaridin (known as KBR 3023 and icaridin outside the US), IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD), or 2-undecanone.
- Provide permethrin for application to clothing and gear
- Use EPA-registered insect repellentsexternal icon with one of the active these ingredients: DEET, picaridin (known as KBR 3023 and icaridin outside the US), IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD), or 2-undecanone.
- Find the right insect repellent for you by using EPA’s search toolexternal icon.
- When used as directed, EPA-registered insect repellents are proven safe and effective, even for pregnant and breastfeeding women.
- If also using sunscreen, apply sunscreen first and insect repellent second.
- Permethrin can be applied to clothing and gear.
- Wear clothing that covers hands, arms, legs, and other exposed skin. Wear hats with mosquito netting to protect the face and neck.
- Remove standing water (for example, tires, buckets, barrels) to reduce places where mosquitoes lay eggs
- Workers who develop symptoms of a mosquito-borne disease should report this promptly to their supervisor and get medical attention.
What are mosquito-borne diseases?
When a mosquito feeds on blood, it also swallows any viruses or parasites living in the blood. These viruses and parasites can be transferred to the next person the mosquito bites through its saliva. Any disease that is spread in this way from mosquito to human (or animal) is known as a ‘mosquito-borne disease’.
While the mosquito may not be affected, these mosquito-borne diseases can cause immense suffering for humans. Roughly 390 million people are infected each year with dengue, and hundreds of thousands more are affected by Zika, chikungunya and yellow fever.
Common types of mosquito-borne diseases include malaria, dengue, West Nile virus, chikungunya, yellow fever and Zika.
For most folks, the symptoms from this virus are mild: just a fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes. The real danger may be to pregnant women and their babies. It’s linked to a birth defect called microcephaly, which causes small heads and brain damage. Mosquitoes spread this disease in many parts of the world including Brazil and other countries in South and Central America, the Caribbean, and Southeast Asia.
It’s rare in the U.S., but it shows up in places popular with tourists, like Puerto Rico, the Pacific islands, Latin America, and Southeast Asia. When you catch it, you could get problems like rash, fever, headache, easy bruising, and bleeding gums. Sometimes it leads to hemorrhagic fever, which can be deadly. The only vaccine.approved by the FDA is for use in children aged 9-16 who already had been infected by one of the four dengue viruses to help prevent getting the disease again from one of the other viruses.
If you get a bite from a mosquito that’s carrying this virus, you probably won’t have any symptoms. Some people, though, get fever, joint pain, diarrhea, vomiting, or a rash. You need to watch out for rare complications, like the brain infections called encephalitis or meningitis. There’s no vaccine for the disease, which shows up in every state except Alaska and Hawaii.