Workplace injuries: West Nile Virus threatens California workers


Authorities recently reported a West Nile Virus outbreak in Los Angeles County. Along with other possible workplace injuries, it poses a significant risk to workers whose jobs have them working outdoors. Reportedly, WNV is endemic in this area of California, posing high risks during the summer months when the heat brings increased mosquito activity between dusk and dawn.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has urged employers to inform workers of the dangers. They must make sure that workers wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts and socks. Further precautions include the use of repellent on skin and clothes. Workers must also be familiar with the telltale signs of WNV, and report them as soon they are noticed.

Farmers, landscapers, foresters, gardeners, groundskeepers, roofers, painters, pavers, laborers, construction workers and other outdoor workers are at risk. Symptoms of WNV infections could be present for days or months, and they could include headache, fever, skin rash, nausea and body aches. Severe symptoms can include neck stiffness, muscle weakness, high fever, coma, paralysis and possible death. However, only one in every 150 workers who are infected by WNV typically requires hospital treatment.

West Nile Virus is not always diagnosed because the symptoms are similar to those of flu, but workers who are aware of the risk will likely recognize the red flags. Just like with any workplace injuries, the California workers’ compensation insurance program will cover the medical expenses and lost wages of workers in Los Angeles who are infected by WNV. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can assist with the navigation of the benefits claims process.

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