As the dog days of summer in 2013 crept in, so began a number of disturbing news reports. Nationwide, more and more reports emerged of reports of West Nile virus. People weren’t just getting sick, however. Some were dying. Illinois swiftly joined the ranks of those states reporting cases, which by early September already numbered nearly 2000 cases nationwide – nearly three times the number of cases reported in the entirety of 2011. For outdoor workers, this resurgence of West Nile is of particular concern. Without a doubt, West Nile can have a devastating effect on both a workers’ health and quality of life.
West Nile is an infectious disease largely spread through infected mosquitos. Any person bitten by a mosquito carrying the West Nile virus is at risk of developing the disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the majority of those who become infected will have no symptoms or symptoms so mild that they will go unnoticed. Typically around 20% of those infected will develop flu-like symptoms lasting days or weeks like “fever, headache, body aches, nausea, vomiting, swollen lymph nodes or rash.” But an unfortunate one in fifty will become seriously ill as a result of the infection. The CDC reports these people will experience long term and potentially permanent problems such as, “high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, coma, convulsions, tremor, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis.” Sadly, a number of those with such serious complications die from the illness.
According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, West Nile first came on the scene in the United States in 1999, and was first reported in Illinois in 2001. In 2002, Illinois experienced more cases than any other state, reporting 884 cases and 67 deaths that year. States were swift to establish protocols for avoiding the mosquitos that carry the virus. The reality is, however, simply being outdoors means you are at risk. For outdoor workers, clearly the risk is increased. Mosquitos are a fact of life in the outdoors, and workers are all too familiar with bites from the insect. While there are ways to improve your chances, short of a head-to-toe outfit, no fool-proof method exists to avoid being bitten.
At the Law Office of Millon and Peskin, we are all too aware of the health dangers that exist for outdoor workers. In addition to physical dangers from the weather, traffic, terrain and physical stress, infectious diseases are a very real concern. Mosquitos can carry a number of diseases in addition to West Nile, as can ticks, other insects and animals. Even polluted water and soil can carry disease. As Illinois workers compensation attorney ‘s, too often we find that workers are unaware that diseases contracted while on the job are often eligible for workers’ compensation coverage. Our goal is to educate and protect these workers, as well as help those who have already become ill. We have extensive experience representing clients with such occupational diseases, obtaining for them the full benefits they deserve.
In our next article, we will discuss the recent news of a railroad worker who contracted West Nile on the job and his subsequent fight for restitution from his employer. His experience with West Nile highlights the risk to outdoor workers, its potentially devastating long-term effect, and the importance of employers taking responsibility for protecting their employees from the disease.
About the Author: Brooke Haley is a Marketing Associate at Millon & Peskin, Chicago workers compensation attorney that practice in the areas of Workers’ Compensation and Personal Injury. Millon & Peskin is a General Civil Litigation Practice with the goal of representing the interests of injured workers, throughout all applicable Courts in the State of Illinois. For more information about Illinois workers compensation lawyer,please visit www.millonpeskin.com.