The Zika virus can be carried by mosquitoes.

The Zika virus can be carried by mosquitoes. Tacio Philip Sansonovski /

OPM Responds to Zika Virus by Streamlining Agency Hiring

Medical officers, nurses, disease- and IT-specialists are needed at State, HHS, USAID.

With the Zika viris continuing to spread from Central and Latin America, the Office of Personnel Management on Friday announced it is allowing streamlined hiring of specialists at the Health and Human Services and State departments, as well as at the U.S. Agency for International Development.

As part of the Obama administration’s “whole of government” approach, the coordinated move to provide direct hiring authority follows a Feb. 22 White House request for $1.9 billion to combat the mosquito-borne disease that causes birth defects and can be transmitted through sex.

Acting OPM Director Beth Cobert in a blog post said, “One of our most important responsibilities at the Office of Personnel Management is to help departments and agencies hire the talented employees they need to fulfill their missions. As the world confronts the Zika virus, OPM is enabling federal officials to more quickly and efficiently bring on the talented individuals they need to aid in the response.”

HHS, State and USAID “need to quickly hire specialists,” Cobert wrote, calling for dozens of medical officers and nurses at State, microbiologists and epidemiologists at HHS, and emergency management and information technology specialists at USAID.

“Federal health experts are working to improve mosquito control efforts and refine Zika testing methods” to respond both domestically and internationally, she said. “They are also providing support and guidance to health care providers and to the public about travel plans and precautions they can take to guard against the virus. Direct-hire authority will allow the agencies responding to move more quickly.”

Applicants are instructed to go to Cobert also reminded federal employees who travel for business or personal reasons to heed updated official guidance about precautions laid out on the traveler’s health websites of State and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

 “When facing emerging health threats such as this,” Cobert said, “the world looks to the United States as a leader in providing the tools, resources, and individuals needed to respond. And we know that Americans are looking to our talented public health officials and scientists to be at the forefront of the efforts to combat this illness.”