Ways to Avoid West Nile Virus Risk in Outdoor Work Suggested by NIOSH

NIOSH Update:

Contact: Fred Blosser (202) 401-3749
September 5, 2002

Planning, good work-site maintenance, and simple protective measures for workers can help reduce the risk of West Nile virus infection for workers who are employed in outdoor jobs, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) suggests.

NIOSH’s recommendations, along with further information on risk factors and resources, are available on the Web at West Nile topic page.

Steps suggested by NIOSH to reduce job-related risk of infection include the following:

  • When possible, employers should avoid scheduling outdoor work when mosquitoes are most active and biting. Many mosquitoes bite most actively at dusk and dawn, but some mosquitoes are also active during the day, particularly in weedy, brushy, and wooded or shaded areas.
  • Weedy, brushy, and wooded or shaded areas should generally be avoided when possible, since mosquitoes may be active in those settings even during the day.
  • Employers should eliminate as many sources of stagnant water as possible, because this is where mosquitoes breed. Sources of stagnant water can be eliminated, for example, by turning over, covering, or removing such equipment as barrels, buckets, and wheelbarrows; discarding items such as tires, cans, and containers; and cleaning out rain gutters and ditches.
  • If work is performed in areas where mosquitoes may be biting, workers should wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and socks when possible, and should spray their clothing and exposed skin with repellents, following directions on the label.

Workers at highest risk of exposure to the virus are those working outdoors when infected mosquitoes are actively biting. Occupations at risk include farmers, foresters, landscapers, groundskeepers, painters, roofers, pavers, construction workers, and other outdoor workers. The West Nile virus is transmitted through bites from infected mosquitoes. It was first reported in the U.S. in New York in the summer of 1999 and has become increasingly widespread since then. This year, as of Sept. 4, 2002, 737 cases in humans have been reported in the U.S., and 40 persons have died.

Further information about NIOSH research and recommendations to prevent job-related injuries and illnesses is available from the NIOSH toll-free information number, 1-800-35-NIOSH (1-800-356-4674) and from the NIOSH Web page.

Page last reviewed: July 22, 2015