West Nile Virus and Workers’ Compensation: What You Need To Know

Workers’ Compensation covers a variety of injuries and illnesses.   Workers’ Compensation Law, sometimes, covers exotic medical conditions.   One of these exotic medical conditions that can be occupationally-related is West Nile Virus.   This article will discuss the West Nile Virus, how it can be an occupationally-related disease, and whether there are any Labor Code Sections that are applicable to claims for West Nile Virus.

What Is the West Nile Virus?

West Nile Virus is a disease that is mosquito-borne.   The disease is commonly spread to individuals by the bite of an infected mosquito. West Nile Virus is a microorganism.   The mosquitos become infected when they feed off of infected birds.   These mosquitos then become infected and transmit the virus when they bite Humans to take blood.

What Occupations Are At-Risk for West Nile Virus?

There are a few occupations that are at-risk for West Nile Virus.   They include individuals who work outdoors, individuals who are involved with the collection of dead birds, veterinarians, and laboratory workers. Besides mosquito bites, healthcare workers can become infected with the virus via needle-sticks or cuts.

Is There A Particular Time of The Year When One Is Likely To Get Infected By West Nile Virus?

Cases of West Nile Virus commonly occur during Mosquito Season.   Mosquito Season starts in the summer and continues through the Fall.

How Does One Prove That Their West Nile Virus Is Work-Related?

The way that an Injured Worker proves that their West Nile Virus exposure was work-related is through facts and medical evidence.   First, the Injured Worker must prove that they worked in an area where mosquitos were present.   Second, the Injured Worker may have a history of receiving mosquito bites at that location.   Third, the Injured Worker must have medical testing and reporting that they are infected with the virus. Fourth, there needs to be a medical opinion from a physician.

It is important to note that the burden in California Workers’ Compensation Law is that the Injured Worker proves their injury within “reasonable medical probability.”  In layman’s terms, the injured Worker must prove that it is “more likely than not” that the injury was work-related.   This means that it is not necessary that the Injured Worker provide absolute proof that an infected mosquito bite was at the worksite.

In order to prove the burden of reasonable medical probability, the employment of a physician is necessary.  Further, testing is indicated to prove that the Injured Worker was in fact infected with the West Nile Virus.   This medical reporting can be from a treating physician, a Qualified Medical Evaluator, or an Agreed Medical Examiner.

Is West Nile Virus A Serious Disease?

Yes.  West Nile Virus can be a serious disease.  The disease can range from infected individuals who are symptomatic to who are asymptomatic.  There are many people who become infected with West Nile Virus who never develop any symptoms. About 20 percent of the people infected develop a fever and may suffer from other symptoms.   These symptoms include headaches, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea, and rashes.  Most people who have this level of the symptoms recover.   The symptoms, however, can last for weeks up to months.  There are individuals who have more serious symptoms.   This can be 1 of about 150 people infected.   It can cause severe illness infecting the central nervous system.  This can include the contraction of encephalitis or meningitis.

Symptoms can include fever, headaches, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness, and paralysis.

The recovery from the illness can take weeks to months.   Sometimes, the damage can be permanent.  In these cases, symptoms can include headaches, fever, neck stiffness, vomiting, disorientation, muscle weakness, and coma. See IPAC.  In severe cases, in which the illness infects the nervous system, West Nile Virus can cause death.

While many people recover from West Nile Virus, there can be prolonged health problems including muscle weakness, fatigue, headache, confusion, depression, problems with concentration and memory loss. See IPAC

How Is West Nile Virus Diagnosed?

West Nile Virus is diagnosed with blood testing.

work related west nile virus

What Are the Treatments for West Nile Virus?

West Nile Virus treatment can include over-the-counter medications.   In severe cases, hospitalization may be required.   This hospitalization may include the provision of supportive care, intravenous fluids, and pain medications.

What Do I Do If My Claim for Work-Related West Nile Virus Is Denied?  

In California Workers’ Compensation Law, if a claim for a work injury is denied, you are still allowed to pursue it and prove that it is work-related. You are entitled to obtain a Qualified Medical Evaluation in order to prove up your claim.   Further, you need to file an Application before the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board to preserve the statute of limitations.   Consultation with an attorney is recommended.

Are There Any Special Laws That May Be Applicable to West Nile Virus?

Yes.  Since West Nile Virus is a blood-borne illness, there is a Labor Code Section which applies to safety members that specifically addresses blood-borne diseases.   Labor  Code Section 3212.8 provides a presumption for certain safety members for blood-borne infectious diseases.

What If I Need Advice?

If you would like a free consultation regarding your workers’ compensation claim, please contact the Law Offices of Edward J. Singer, a Professional Law Corporation. They have been helping people in Central and Southern California deal with their worker’s compensation cases for 28 years. Contact us today for more information.


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