Valley Fever time is around the corner. Construction and agricultural workers in California are at higher risk of becoming infected with the Coccidioides fungus from June through November. The spores from the fungus live in the dirt but become airborne when the soil is disturbed. A significant number of workers’ compensation claims each year involve Valley Fever cases.
Once the fungus spores are airborne, outdoor workers breathe them in and could develop Valley Fever. This disease typically affects the lungs, but other body parts could be infected, and could occasionally be fatal. The California Department of Public Health reported over 9,000 cases in 2019, an increase of over 1,000 from the 2018 reported cases of Valley Fever.
The rise in Valley Fever cases has seen new safety standards to protect agricultural and construction workers. The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health now requires employers to create awareness of the disease among workers and provide safety training. Workers must learn about the risk factors, prevention methods, and how to recognize symptoms. Employers had until May 1, 2020, to ensure that employees received the necessary safety training.
As the number of Valley Fever cases rises each year, many workers will likely fall victim to the Coccidioides fungus during the coming high-risk season. Fortunately, the California workers’ compensation insurance program will have their backs. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can assist with the navigation of the benefits claims process, and work to secure maximum benefits for the affected worker under applicable law. Benefits typically cover medical expenses and a percentage of lost wages.