Infectious Disease from Insects on the Rise

Filed in Labor, Safety and Health by on June 27, 2018 0 Comments

tick on a finger

Most home builders use extra caution when working outdoors in extreme heat, intense sun and other inclement weather conditions. But builders may also want to consider measures to protect themselves from disease-carrying insects.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last month released the results of a study showing a sharp increase in cases of infectious disease from mosquito, tick and flea bites between 2004 and 2016.

Ticks were responsible for the majority (77%) of reported illnesses, and within that group, 82% were cases of Lyme disease. Reports of Lyme disease have doubled since 2004, with more than 36,000 cases in 2016 alone. But the CDC said that even their numbers drastically understate the real problem: Lyme disease infects an estimated 300,000 Americans each year.

Common symptoms of Lyme disease include fever, headache, fatigue, and muscle and joint aches. There’s also a telltale skin rash, which often manifests in a ring shape on the body at the point of infection.

Peak Lyme season is right now, May through July, so builders should be actively working to mitigate exposure risks. In 2003, OSHA issued a Safety and Health Information Bulletin on occupational exposure to Lyme disease that includes the following precautions:

  • Avoid brushy, overgrown grassy and wooded habitats, particularly in spring and early summer when nymphal ticks feed.
  • Safely remove leaves, tall grass and brush from areas surrounding work areas or residential areas, thereby reducing tick, deer and rodent habitats.
  • Regularly apply tick-toxic chemicals (e.g., Damminix, Dursban, Sevin, etc.) to surrounding work or residential areas to suppress the tick population. Pesticides should be used only in accordance with federal Environmental Protection Agency and applicable state and local regulations.

Both OSHA and the CDC recommend wearing high boots or closed shoes that cover the entire foot, wearing light-colored long sleeved shirts when possible and using insect repellent sprays containing DEET on exposed skin. And always examine exposed skin for ticks after work.


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