Zika Prevention at Camp

As resident camps get ready for the start of summer, we know you are taking the necessary steps to prevent campers in your care from suffering any injuries. Whether it’s climbing, ropes courses and ZIP line safety, aquatic safety, or your staff hiring and training practices, we know there’s a lot to think about.

But this year we have a new concern, the Zika Virus. In fact, infectious disease experts at institutions including the University of Washington and Oxford University have produced a map indicating that two billion people live in areas at risk of Zika virus, including large swathes of the Southern United States.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “Zika virus disease (Zika) is a disease caused by Zika virus that is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week after being bitten by an infected mosquito. People usually don’t get sick enough to go to the hospital, and they very rarely die of Zika. For this reason, many people might not realize they have been infected. However, Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly. Once a person has been infected, he or she is likely to be protected from future infections.” While symptoms are usually mild, there have been concerns that Zika infections in pregnant women may be linked to birth defects. Regardless of whether this proves to be the case, reducing exposure to mosquito-borne illnesses is always a good idea.

There are several things you can do to reduce the mosquito population at your camp:

  1. Follow the CDC mosquito bite prevention protocols.
  2. Eliminate or treat standing water at the camp that is not part of usable body of water. This would include things like: Puddles at uneven pavement areas, low areas where water may pool, the tops of tarps, water barrels, blocked/clogged gutters that may having water sitting in them, etc. are good breeding grounds for mosquitos. Drain these areas if possible.
  3. Consider barrier protection spraying, if possible at your camp. You will probably need to contract out this service and make sure that the service are using Pyrethrins or a similar type non-toxic treatment. Pyrethrins are insecticides that are derived from a naturally occurring compound called pyrethrum found in the chrysanthemum flower. The contractor treating the camp will know what is best used for barrier protection.
  4. Communicate with the families of campers and make them aware of the steps you are taking to reduce the mosquito population at your camp.
  5. Don’t forget your employees and medical staff – OSHA issued interim guidance for protecting workers from occupational exposure to Zika Virus, and there are some steps you can take to protect your employees. Here is some guidance from CDC: http://www.cdc.gov/zika/symptoms/.
  6. Have staff wear long sleeve shirts
  7. Provide mosquito repellent
  8. Treat clothing and gear with permethrin or purchase permethrin-treated items.
    • Treated clothing remains protective after multiple washings. See product information to learn how long the protection will last.
    • If treating items yourself, follow the product instructions carefully.
    • Do NOT use permethrin products directly on skin. They are intended to treat clothing.

In summary the only thing you can do is to treat the symptoms.

How to treat the symptoms:

  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Drink fluids to prevent dehydration.
  • Take medicine such as acetaminophen (Tylenol®) or paracetamol to reduce fever and pain.
  • Do not take aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) until dengue can be ruled out to reduce the risk of bleeding.
  • If you are taking medicine for another medical condition, talk to your healthcare provider before taking additional medication.

You can learn more here at http://www.cdc.gov/zika/prevention/index.html. Once OSHA releases their guidelines we will update any guidance as needed.

This is just one more challenge for you and your staff to be aware of concerning camp this summer. Take the time to educate your staff and use the resources to protect your campers and staff this summer.