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Insect-borne illnesses put workers at risk

Reports of insect-borne illnesses have tripled over the last 12 years according to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Outdoor workers in New Jersey and across the U.S. are among those most at risk.

The CDC says that more than 640,000 cases of dengue, Lyme, Zika and plague were reported between 2004 and 2016. One of the ways these diseases spread is through the bites of mosquitoes, ticks and fleas. Typically, state and local health departments work with vector control companies to reduce insect populations, but around 84 percent of these organizations fail to provide at least one of the core competencies needed to protect the public. These core competencies include routine mosquito monitoring, killing insects at an early life stage, consistent source reduction and pesticide resistance testing.

Individuals infected with an insect-borne disease may suffer from pain in the body, rash, fever, fatigue, a stiff neck and paralysis. To prevent exposure to insect bites, the CDC recommends that workers cover their bodies with light-colored clothing, avoid colognes and perfumes, use scent-free soaps and maintain clean work areas. They should also use an insect repellent that contains at least 20 percent DEET. At the end of each shift, they should check their clothing for ticks.

Workers who contract an insect-related illness may need to file a claim for workers compensation benefits. If approved, these benefits may pay for the worker's current and future medical expenses. They might also provide wage replacement payments if someone is unable to work. An attorney may help a worker document a claim and work to obtain the maximum settlement available.

Source: Safety and Health, "Steep rise in insect-borne illnesses puts outdoor workers at risk: CDC," May 16, 2018

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