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The Zika Virus in the U.S.: What Employers Need to Know Now

As of May 10, 2016, there were 472 confirmed cases of Zika, spread across 41 states and Washington D.C. By June 1, this number had increased to 618. Get the latest information on Zika as it pertains to your employees, whether or not your staff travel for work.

Zika Cases in the U.S. By the Numbers

  • Florida has the highest number of Zika infections in the U.S., with 95 cases. New York has 89 Zika cases. California has 40 cases of Zika, and Texas has 30 confirmed cases. One U.S. Zika case so far has led to Guillain-Barré syndrome.
  • U.S. territories have 1,114 cases of Zika, 8 of which have led to Guillain-Barré syndrome.
  • The CDC estimates 341 pregnant women in the U.S. have contracted Zika.
  • Individuals who come down with Zika are contagious for a three-week period. During this time frame, they risk passing on Zika to mosquitos who bite them. If this happens, Zika could become a pandemic in the U.S. especially during the summer season.

Health Effects of Zika

Common symptoms of the viral infection include joint pain, fever, and red eyes. Many adults who come down with Zika will not feel anything at all. The main health consequences of Zika are birth defects associated with a Zika infection.

Earlier this year, CDC studies conclusively confirmed that the Zika virus is a cause of microcephaly and other birth defects. Not every pregnant woman who contracts Zika will birth a baby with birth defects like microcephaly. Still, this affirmation from the CDC is troubling for American women who are, or who want to become, pregnant.

The CDC is currently performing follow-up research into whether microcephaly is just the “tip of the iceberg” in terms of birth defects attributed to the virus.

Zika Mosquitos in the U.S.

  • The Aedes aegypti mosquito species are the main type of mosquito that spreads Zika and other viruses. These mosquitos live in tropical and subtropical climates, and migrate to the U.S. in summer.
  • The CDC estimates the range of this mosquito species as 27 states and the District of Columbia. These figures are estimates that show where these mosquitos are, or have previously been, found. They are not meant to show areas where Zika is likely to be found.
  • Mere presence of the Aedes aegypti does not mean that mosquitos will spread Zika. However, these mosquitos are more likely to spread Zika and other viruses than other mosquitos.
  • No organization can predict where, or if, Zika will spread in the U.S. Yet the CDC confidently states that areas that have experienced chikungunya and dengue outbreaks face a higher risk for Zika. These areas include Hawaii, Florida, Texas, and Puerto Rico.

To help U.S. employers cope with the Zika virus, we have put together a comprehensive guide on developing an organizational Zika policy. Learn how to help your staff stay safe while remaining on the right side of the law when it comes to Zika-related policy changes in the workplace.