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Vector-Borne Diseases

Vector-Borne Diseases

Hazard Overview

Hazard Overview

What is a vector?

Vectors are living organisms that can transmit infectious diseases between humans or from animals to humans. Many of these are bloodsucking insects that ingest disease-producing microorganisms after biting and sucking blood from an infected host (human or animal) and later inject it into a new host during their next blood meal.

The best-known of the disease vectors are mosquitoes. Other familiar disease vectors include ticks, flies, sandflies, fleas, triatomine bugs and some freshwater aquatic snails.

What are vector-borne diseases?

Vector-borne diseases are human illnesses caused by parasites, viruses and bacteria that are transmitted by mosquitoes, ticks and other disease vectors.

Some of the more commonly known vectors and associated vector-borne diseases are:

  • Mosquitos: malaria, West Nile fever, Yellow fever, Zika virus;

  • Ticks: Lyme disease, Rickettsial diseases (Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Q fever), tularemia

  • Fleas: plague, rickettsiosis

Who is at risk of exposure to vector-borne diseases?

Employees working in outdoor settings such as, but not limited to, agricultural operations, arboriculture and logging operations, and construction work are most at risk of becoming infected with a vector-borne disease.




What can I do to protect myself and others?

Employees who work outside can protect themselves against mosquito and tick bites, in particular, by following a few simple precautions. Use EPA-registered insect repellents containing one of the following ingredients: DEET; picaridin (known as KBR 3023 and icaridin outside the US); IR3535; oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE); para-menthane-diol (PMD); and 2-undecanone.

Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants when working outside. Treat items, such as boots, pants, socks, and tents, with insect repellant or buy insect repellant-treated clothing and gear.

What resources are available to assist employers?

More information related to vector-borne diseases can be found on the A-Z topics pages for hazard communicationhurricane assistance and recovery and personal protective equipment (PPE). The Which OSHA Standards Apply webpage can also help identify other standards that may be applicable to your worksite.

Further, the NCDOL Library offers free safety and health videos and related research assistance on consensus standards (i.e., ANSI, NFPA, NEC). The education, training and technical assistance bureau provides free online safety and health training and outreach services (i.e., speaker's bureau requests, safety booths) upon request. Lastly, the consultative services bureau provides free and confidential onsite consultation regarding worksite safety and health hazards.




Which standards apply?

OSH has adopted the following standards which are applicable to employee exposure to vector-borne diseases in North Carolina:

General Industry


Maritime, Shipyard Employment

Maritime, Marine Terminals




Learn More

Learn More

Where can I learn more?

If you would like to receive interpretive guidance on this or any other OSH standard or topic, you can submit your questions using the Ask OSH web form, by e-mail to or by calling 919-707-7876.