Earlier this month, the Biden administration declared a national health emergency based on the spread of the monkeypox virus. Employers that have endured the COVID-19 emergency may be asking whether there are any steps they should be taking to reduce the threat of the spread of monkeypox in their workplaces. Unlike COVID-19, monkeypox is thought only to be communicated through close personal contact with someone infected with the virus. While most cases in the U.S. have been linked to sexual contact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that monkeypox can also be spread through skin-to-skin contact or contact with bodily secretions on linens or other surfaces.
The CDC recommends that employers subject to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) bloodborne pathogen safety standard consider monkeypox to be a potential workplace hazard and that employees potentially exposed to the virus through their job tasks wear PPE and take other steps as required under the OSHA rules. Employers in hospitality and other industries may consider having employees who potentially come into contact with bodily fluids wear PPE even if they are not directly subject to the OSHA standard.
If an employer receives notice that an employee has been diagnosed with monkeypox, the CDC recommends that individual quarantine for two to four weeks until released by a medical professional. The employer should clean all surfaces where the infected employee may have had contact (using appropriate PPE) and advise co-workers who may have come into close physical contact with the infected person. Of course, the identity of the infected co-worker should not be disclosed to co-workers.
Monkeypox is likely a Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) serious health condition, and potentially an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) disability, depending on the length and seriousness of the infection. Employers should review their health and safety protocols, and be prepared to respond to any workplace monkeypox concerns. While CDC guidelines do not currently advise vaccinations as a workplace preventative measure, employers should monitor potential changes in this advice.