[BLOG] Zika Virus: Should it be a Concern for Canadian Employers?

March 3, 2016

[AYR, ON] – As the Zika virus continues to remain a hot topic in the media, DriverCheck clients have expressed concerns for their employees who have, or who will be, travelling for work or on vacation to impacted areas. In this post, we offer advice on how to handle the risks and provide tips on how to prevent infection.

Though the World Health Organization declared the Zika virus a public health emergency last month, there have been very few cases reported in Canada to date. The Public Health Agency of Canada recently confirmed travel-related cases of Zika virus from Central and South America, and from the Caribbean.

The agency says that based on its rapid risk assessment, the overall risk for Canadians is very low and the hazard to travellers to affected countries is low. However, it has been recommended that pregnant women and those considering becoming pregnant should take precautions.

The virus, which can cause fever, headache, red eyes, rash, and joint and muscle pain, appears to be linked to microcephaly, which causes babies to be born with unusually small heads.  The incubation period of Zika virus ranges from 3 to 12 days and right now there is no prophylaxis, vaccine or treatment for the virus, just the symptoms.

Employers taking safety-first approach to Zika virus

As concern about the virus spreads, companies in the U.S. are trying to establish policies that take a safety-first approach.

One U.S. airline operator has offered the option for any pilot or flight attendant to swap out a scheduled trip if traveling to areas flagged by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Some workplaces in the U.S. are trying to ensure that travel to affected regions is for critical business and not just a standard business meeting. Many employers are also educating their employees working in those regions with information about how to protect against the virus.

Educating employees is key to protection

Travelers should ensure that they protect themselves from mosquito bites at all times, day and night. This includes the use of insect repellant and clothing that covers your skin. If travelers are staying in a building with no window screens, use mosquito bed netting while you sleep.

Anyone that develops symptoms when travelling or after they have returned should contact a physician and tell them where they have been travelling. If your employees have any concerns about Zika, or are traveling to any of the identified breakout regions, we recommend you have them consult a health care provider ideally six weeks before travel.

Visit CDC’s website for fact sheets and posters that you can place in your workplace to educate employees on the risks and prevention of Zika virus.

Although the risks of contracting the Zika virus are low to Canadians it is best to take precautionary measures to ensure the safety of you and your family members while traveling abroad.