Zika virus: CDC issues worker protection guidelines

Public health authorities have issued new guidelines to protect workers who treat patients exposed to the Zika virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)  has warned small, localized outbreaks of the virus are likely in the U.S. in the near future.

The guidelines provide recommendations for healthcare workers, the safety of whom was a major issue in 2014 amid concerns over the spread of Ebola. Healthcare workers must use standard precautions such as full hand-hygiene compliance and use of personal protective equipment during contact with potentially hazardous materials such as blood or laboratory samples. Hand-hygiene protocols should involve alcohol-based hand rubs that are at least 60 percent alcohol or, in the case of visibly-soiled hands, soap and water. 

Healthcare workers must also properly dispose of potentially-contaminated sharps, reporting any needlesticks or lacerations to supervisors, the guidelines state. In circumstances where risk of exposure may be greater, healthcare workers must employ standard precautions even if they only suspect the presence of Zika.

Although there are no known cases of Zika transmission via aerosol exposure, they must also minimize aerosolization of blood or other bodily fluids during patient care and laboratory tasks.

To learn more:
- read the CDC guidelines (.pdf)