Michael Burgis & Associates, P.C.

Workplace injuries: Valley fever threatens California workers

Workers in California who are exposed to dust in areas in which valley fever is endemic are vulnerable to be infected by the airborne Coccidioides immitis fungus. It typically infects the lungs to cause valley fever, but it could spread to other tissues. When this happens, the condition is called disseminated coccidioidomycosis. Fortunately, infected workers have the same rights to workers' compensation benefits to cover medical expenses and lost wages as those who suffer other workplace injuries.

While some infections are mild, severe cases of valley fever could cause pneumonia or bronchitis. However, if it disseminates, the infection can attack organs like brain tissue, joints, bones, skin and more. Some such cases even lead to death. At the highest risk are farmworkers, construction workers, military personnel and trainees, correctional officers, wildfire fighters, and employees in the oil and gas extraction industry and mining.

Employers must inform workers of potential infections and the symptoms for which to look out because they are often mistaken for flu symptoms. Workers could experience breath shortness, fatigue, fever, night sweats, joint and muscle pain, headache, and skin rash. If any of these symptoms last for more than seven days, affected workers should seek medical care.

Depending on the severity of the valley fever infection, victims could be unable to work for an extended period, and along with lost wages, they might also have to deal with mounting medical bills. The sensible thing to do might be to consult with a California attorney who has experience in helping victims of workplace injuries and illnesses to obtain compensation. The lawyer can assist with the navigation of workers' compensation benefits claims to cover those costs.

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