The H3N2 flu strain that swept across the United States in late 2017 and early 2018 proved to be one of the worst strains in recent history.
In addition to widespread illness and some deaths, this strain also caused great harm to employers due to millions of hours of lost worker productivity. The fact that many employees contracted the illness from fellow employees while at the workplace could lead to claims of occupational illness.
While state workers compensation laws differ significantly, the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America's Virtual University says the typical standard for determining if an illness or disease is considered occupational—and is thus compensable under workers compensation insurance—is as follows: (1) the illness or disease arose out of the scope of the employment, and (2) the illness or disease was caused by conditions that are unique/peculiar to the nature of the work.
Communicable diseases like the flu are not covered by workers compensation, because they do not meet the criteria above. An example of a condition which likely would satisfy the criteria is a factory worker who develops a chronic lung condition found to be caused by his repeated exposure to exhaust from the factory's machinery.
There is no one test to determine if a specific condition meets the criteria. In some cases, it may require multiple parties, including medical professionals, industry experts and/or the court, to weigh the facts and circumstances of a specific illness to determine if it is occupational.
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