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The country's response to the Ebola outbreak has escalated significantly, even as the 21-day watch periods expire for some health workers and airline passengers exposed to the virus. President Barack Obama has appointed an Ebola czar, more volunteers testing positive for the virus have returned to the country, and the number of cases and fatalities in West Africa continues to climb. On Oct. 25, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website reported more than 10,000 cases and nearly 5,000 deaths.

In our last post, we were talking about health care workers in particular and whether they would be eligible for workers' compensation benefits if they contracted the Ebola virus while on the job. The risk is significant if safety measures fail, but their jobs involve exposure to other dangerous viruses. If it is work-related, is it compensable?

The answer can vary from state-to-state, but generally the analysis starts with two questions. First, was the disease "occupational"? If exposure to the virus were within the scope and course of employment, then the disease would be occupational. The claimant must have been doing work that benefited the employer to answer "yes."

The inquiry can't stop there, though. If it did, then nurses and doctors who caught the flu during flu season would be filing workers' comp claims.

So we need to dig a little further. Did the disease arise out of or was it caused by conditions peculiar to the claimant's work? Was this risk associated almost uniquely with the claimant's occupation?

We'll continue this in our next post.

Source: Insurance Journal, "Is Ebola Compensable Under Workers’ Compensation?" Christopher J. Boggs, Oct. 10, 2014

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