In a September 12th press conference, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated that they expect 2012 to become the worst year on record for West Nile virus cases in the United States. Though we have not yet topped 2002’s record-setting number of 3000 severe cases and 284 deaths, the current pace of cases being reported is so rapid that 2012 is expected to easily eclipse this record by year’s end. As discussed in a previous article, the West Nile virus, which is generally spread by mosquitos, causes symptoms ranging from flu-like symptoms to permanent damage and even death. At particular risk of contracting the virus are workers whose jobs require them to spend more time outdoors, such as construction workers, landscapers and utility workers. Recently, a lawsuit by a railroad worker against his employer highlighted not just the devastation West Nile can reap, but the responsibility employers have to ensure the safety of their employees against the virus.
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.