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Will Zika Fall Under Workers' Compensation?

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Aug 19, 2016

One of the areas of coverage under Workers' Compensation insures employees for any consequences of infectious diseases that may arise at your place of employment. Given that, is the Workers' Compensation system ready and willing to handle Zika claims?

The Zika Virus has been causally linked to Guillain-Barré syndrome according to a new US CDC study. The US CDC has issued an alert about the spread of Zika virus. The CDC announced that in Florida Zika is now being spread by mosquitoes in the continental U.S. A recent study that was published in "Cell Stem Cell," noted that the Zika Virus can infect adult brain cells as well as fetal cells, which was not previously known.

The National Institutes for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH) has recommended the following:

"Employers should protect workers and workers should protect themselves from diseases spread by mosquitoes. Although most people do not become sick after a bite from an infected mosquito, some people have a mild, short-term illness or (rarely) severe or long-term illness. Severe cases of mosquito-borne diseases can cause death."

To follow-up on this message from the NIOSH, employees can take these preventative actions including protecting equipment in the field, removing debris from ditches, filling in areas that collect standing water, remove tires, buckets and items that collect standing water and placing holes in containers that could collect standing water where mosquitoes may breed. An obvious preventative measure is of course, using ample bug repellent.

Before these battles inevitably enter the court room over this issue, including causal relationship, it would be wise to think about how employers, insurance companies and workers can be protected from the Zika Virus. Even though Congress has not acted on funding prevention and treatment programs, the White House has taken the initiative with educating the public and recently transferring $600Million of unused Ebola funds to the attack on the Zika Virus.

Hopefully, workers' compensation insurers will do their part and participate in prevention initiative now that mosquito season has started. Workers' compensation stakeholders can help prevent both an epidemic of illness as well as an epidemic of claims.