If you’ve been following headlines, you’ve seen warnings about the new global health crisis of 2016: the Zika virus.
The World Health Organization declared the Zika outbreak a global health emergency after evidence was found linking the virus to microcephaly, a devastating birth defect that causes abnormally small heads and reduced brain development.
Brazil alone has reported 3,700 suspected cases of the disease, and at least 25 other countries and territories, most of them in Latin American and the Caribbean, have reported cases of the disease. The WHO fears that up to 4 million people in the Americas could be affected over time. Health experts believe the Zika virus could spread to the United States by April or May as weather becomes warmer in the South.
Until now, the best weapon against the disease-carrying mosquitoes in the United States has been outdoor pesticide fog sprayed by trucks and airplanes. But health experts fear the typical approach will do little to eradicate the spread. The White House has said the risk of transmission now is “quite low,” but that it is working on a strategy to try to limit the spread of this disease when temperatures rise.
Though there could be localized U.S. outbreaks, most likely along the Gulf Coast, federal officials said they hope the wide use of air conditioning, window screens, and regular garbage collection will mitigate the risk.
As always, the hospitality industry has a common-law duty to exert a high level of care for its employees and visitors to its facilities. While hotels and resorts cannot completely control the introduction of the Zika virus or any other communicable disease into their environment, they should take all available common-sense precautions. For guidance, download our Risk Management Bulletin, which shares useful information on the Zika virus and what you can do to help prevent employees and visitors from contracting it.