Monkeypox Occupational Needlestick Injury: Injured Workers in the News, #92

A doctor’s needlestick puncture wound was the subject of a journal article in  Emerging Infectious Disease.

The doctor, working in Portugal,  suffered a needlestick injury to his left index finger.  This occurred when he was collecting a fluid sample from a man who had a pustular rash.   The doctor, according to the article, did not report the injury.  Over time, however, the physician showed signs of being infected with monkeypox. Caldas JP, Valdoleiros SR, Rebelo S, Tavares M. Monkeypox after Occupational Needlestick Injury from Pustule. Emerg Infect Dis. 2022 Dec;28(12):2516-2519. doi: 10.3201/eid2812.221374. Epub 2022 Oct 17. PMID: 36252152; PMCID: PMC9707600

This article will discuss the nature of the monkeypox disease as well as the insights gained by those assessing the case.

What Is Monkeypox?

Per the CDC, “Mpox (formerly known as monkeypox) is a rare disease caused by infection with the mpox virus. Monkeypox virus is part of the same family of viruses as variola virus, the virus that causes smallpox. Mpox symptoms are similar to smallpox symptoms, but milder, and mpox is rarely fatal. Mpox is not related to chickenpox.

There are two types of mpox virus: Clade I and Clade II. The Clade I type of mpox virus has a fatality rate around 10%.

Infections in the 2022–2023 outbreak are from Clade II, or more specifically, Clade IIb.

Infections with Clade IIb are rarely fatal. More than 99% of people who get this form of the disease are likely to survive. However, people with severely weakened immune systems, children younger than 1 year of age, people with a history of eczema, and people who are pregnant or breastfeeding may be more likely to get seriously ill or die.

Note: It would appear that this viral infection has the likelihood of causing permanent disability. This appears to be the case when there is an underlying medical condition.  In California workers’ compensation law, an aggravation or acceleration of an underlying medical condition is also considered as an injury.

What Are the Monkeypox Symptoms?

Per the CDC, Monkeypox, now known as mpox, has symptoms that can be rashes that can be “ located on hands, feet, chest, face, or mouth or near the genitals, including penis, testicles, labia, and vagina, and anus.  The incubation period is 3-17 days. During this time, a person does not have symptoms and may feel fine.

The rash will go through several stages, including scabs, before healing. The rash can initially look like pimples or blisters and may be painful or itchy.”  CDC Other symptoms, per the CDC are Fever, Chills, Swollen lymph nodes, Exhaustion, Muscle aches and backache, Headache, Respiratory symptoms (e.g., sore throat, nasal congestion, or cough) CDC.

Note: With respect to the persistent symptoms, there is the likelihood that they will prevent an injured Worker from working their usual and customary occupation.  Due to the infectious nature of the disease, it is likely that an Injured Worker would be precluded from modified work as well. Therefore, a monkeypox claim is likely to include a period of total temporary disability benefits. 

With Respect to the Journal Article, Were There Any Recommendations?

The journal article made an important point.  The needlestick injury should be reported immediately.  If reported, the Injured Worker would have been able to receive postexposure prophylaxis care which could assist in treatment of the disease.

Note: In the California workers’ compensation system, Injured Workers are entitled to receive up to $10,000.00, of medical treatment while their claim is on delay.

What If I Need Legal Advice?

If you would like a free consultation regarding workers’ compensation, please contact the Law Offices of Edward J. Singer, a Professional Law Corporation. We have been helping people in Central and Southern California deal with their workers’ compensation cases for 30 years. Contact us today for more information.

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