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Insect-borne illnesses may qualify for workers' compensation

When most people think of work-related injuries, they don't consider bug bites. However, for people who work outdoors, these bites and the diseases transmitted by them can become a real problem.

Chikungunya is mosquito-transmitted virus that can impact outdoor workers here in Georgia and throughout the South. The name, of African origin, translates to "bent over in pain" which says something about the debilitating symptoms. These include severe pain in muscles and joints, fever and headaches. Some people experience them for longer periods than others do. There is no treatment. However, the good news is that chikungunya is rarely fatal

The virus is carried by the same two types of mosquitoes that carry yellow and dengue fever. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2014 marked the first time the virus was not just brought to the U.S. by people returning from another country, but transmitted within the U.S. Approximately a dozen people in Georgia and another dozen in Florida reportedly contracted it that year. In all, about 2,500 cases were reported nationwide.

A CDC official says that mosquitoes that carry the virus are most likely to be found around homes and other buildings, and that they are more likely to bite in daytime hours. Therefore, outdoor workers in many professions can be sickened.

The CDC advises employers to encourage their workers to keep their arms and legs covered and avoid wearing fragrances. Another way to avoid attracting mosquitoes is to empty standing water and not to leave food out. Employers are also encouraged to give insect repellant to their workers.

For workers who do contract the virus, it can be difficult to prove that they were bitten while on the job. It can be helpful if other workers either witnessed the bite or were bitten at the same time. Your chances of getting workers' compensation may also improve if someone begins to suffer symptoms immediately.

Georgia employees who have contracted chikungunya or other insect-borne viruses while on the job have a right to pursue a workers' compensation claim to help you out with medical bills and lost wages. If you have difficulty proving that you were bitten on the job, it may be wise to seek legal guidance to help you get the financial help you need as you recover.

Source: Business Insurance, "Mosquito-borne chikungunya latest threat to outdoor workers," Stephanie Miller, June 07, 2015

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