The nation’s meat inspectors – or at least those “who conduct regulatory verification activities outdoors” – are being told how to protect themselves from mosquito-borne diseases. USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) inspection program personnel (IPP) got instructions Wednesday on how to protect themselves from mosquito bites in an official FSIS Notice. “There are many mosquito-transmitted infectious agents including Zika, West Nile and Saint Louis encephalitis (SLEV),” according to FSIS Notice 53-16. “The Zika virus can be transmitted to people through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito and therefore occurs in limited areas of the country. Zika virus infection has been reported in parts of the United States. During certain periods of the year, West Nile Virus is transmitted by mosquitos throughout the United States.” FSIS meat and poultry inspectors involved in outdoor activities, such as ante mortem inspections and verification of the performance of food defense programs, are told to use insect repellents registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and which contain specific ingredients such as DEET or Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus. EPA-registered insect repellents are safe and effective, even for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. FSIS inspection personnel are advised to follow label instructions, reapply the repellent as necessary, avoid spraying underclothing, and to apply sunscreen before applying mosquito repellent. Light-colored clothing with long pants and sleeves provides the best defense for mosquitos. The FSIS Notice also says that the agency will reimburse its personnel for the cost of obtaining “a quantity of repellent that is appropriate for personal use.” The reimbursements are open to any inspection staff personnel whose duties take them into areas of property that are exposed to mosquitos. If mosquitoes do bite, FSIS says to watch for the following identifying symptoms:
- ZIKA VIRUS – Most people do not develop symptoms when infected with the Zika virus. But when they do, fever, rash, joint pain, red eye, muscle pain and headaches are among the symptoms.
- WEST NILE VIRUS – Head and body aches, joint pains, vomiting and rash are among the symptoms of being infected with West Nile Virus. However, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 70 percent to 80 percent of those infected won’t experience symptoms.
- SLEV – Less than 1 percent of those infected show any signs. Symptoms are fever, headache, dizziness, nausea and malaise. FSIS also told its employees to consult with their personal physicians and their occupational health and safety specialists if they see mosquitoes in their specific areas.
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