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Tillman & Associates, Attorneys at Law

Health care workers and infectious diseases

Atlanta health care workers, by the very nature of their jobs, are exposed to numerous infectious diseases. Even people who don't work directly with patients, as nurses and doctors do, can be exposed by contact with laundry, fluids and bacteria themselves. These include housekeeping staff, lab technicians, security guards and administrative personnel.

A number of serious infectious diseases and bacteria can impact health care workers, whether their jobs are in in hospitals, doctors' offices, nursing homes, dental offices or as emergency responders.

Among the diseases and organisms that can endanger their health and potentially their lives are:

-- Multidrug Resistant Organisms: These include bacteria like Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (commonly known as MRSA) that are resistant to some of the most common antibiotics, including amoxicillin and penicillin.

-- Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome: Many of our readers remember the SARS outbreak of 2003. It began in Asia, but moved to North and South America as well as Europe. It is a viral respiratory infection that is caused by the coronoavirus.

-- Ebola: The danger of Ebola to health care workers, particularly those working in the parts of Africa where it is especially pernicious, grabbed so much attention in 2014 that TIME magazine named "The Ebola Fighters" as its Person of the Year. Those featured in the piece included two Texas nurses who contracted Ebola from caring for a man who returned to the U.S. carrying the virus.

The above are just a few examples of what health care workers can contract through their work. Disease can be transmitted through the air, via droplets or by both direct and indirect contact. Medical facilities are supposed to have protocols in place to help minimize the risk of the transmission of disease to their employees.

Those who become ill because they were exposed to infectious disease through their work should be entitled to workers' compensation. Further, if appropriate measures were not taken by a facility to help prevent the transmission of infectious disease, that facility may have some liability. If you believe that your employers did not act as they should have before or after you became ill, you would be wise to seek legal guidance to determine what your options are.

Source: Occupational Safety & Health Administration, "Infectious Diseases," accessed Aug. 13, 2015

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