Michael Burgis & Associates, P.C.

Workers' compensation: Will benefits cover West Nile virus?

California workers who spend a lot of time working outdoors face the hazards brought by insects during the summer months. West Nile virus is one of the diseases caused by mosquito bites, and nine cases have so far been reported across the state this summer. Employees may find comfort in knowing that the workers' compensation insurance system covers occupational diseases.

Birds typically carry the West Nile virus, and it is then transferred to humans and animals by mosquitoes that had bitten infected birds. In 2017, 553 cases of humans infected by WNV were reported in California, and 44 of those victims did not survive. Currently, no vaccine or specific treatment exists for WNV in humans.

The risk for workers over the age of 50 and those with compromised immune systems to suffer severe illness after being bitten by infected mosquitoes is higher than for younger, healthier employees. Although rare, encephalitis, meningitis and even death can result. While many people suffer no symptoms at all, others might experience flu-like symptoms, headaches, fever, muscle aches and nausea within three to 14 days of being bitten by an infected mosquito.

California workers who notice mosquito bites on their bodies must look out for signs of illness -- even if only mild symptoms are experienced. They must see a physician as soon as possible to have the insect bite investigated. An experienced workers' compensation attorney could help the employee with the navigation of a benefits claim for compensation of medical expenses and lost wages if the illness caused days off work.

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