Workers' compensation: More workers diagnosed with Valley Fever

Both the California Department of Public Health and the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health expressed their concern over the sharp increase in Valley Fever cases that are reported. Although the numbers are provisional, CDPH says 1,294 more cases were reported across the state from Jan. 1 to Oct. 31, 2017, compared to the same period in 2016. OSHA says more companies are being cited for failure to protect workers, and there will likely be more workers' compensation claims from Valley Fever victims.

A microscopic fungus, Coccidioides immitis, causes Valley Fever. The fungus grows in the top two inches to one foot of soil -- mostly in the Central Valley area, but also in other parts of the state. Workers are most frequently affected when digging and driving activities cause dust, particularly in high winds. The spores become airborne, and workers can inhale it. OSHA recommends that supervisors should train workers to recognize the symptoms although it could easily be confused with other illnesses such as flu and viral or bacterial pneumonia because the symptoms are similar.

If diagnosed promptly, people with Valley Fever can have a full recovery within a short time. However, those older than 60 years, pregnant women and others with compromised immune systems are at a higher risk of developing pneumonia, brain infections or infection in their skins, bones, joints or other organs. For that reason, any California worker who coughs, runs a fever or struggles to breathe should see a doctor rather than marking it off as flu.

Sometimes, workers put off going to a health care professional when they first feel unwell, hoping it will pass and save them the financial expenses of medical treatment. They may not realize that occupational illnesses are covered by the California workers' compensation insurance system. Benefits claims may be filed for coverage of medical expenses and lost income for those whose illnesses kept them off work for a prolonged time. The help of an experienced workers' compensation attorney is available to assist with the navigation of the claims process.

Source: safety.blr.com, "California's got the fever -- Valley Fever, that is," Nov. 28, 2017

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