MRSA, or Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, refers to a type of staph infection that cannot be treated with most antibiotics. While most MRSA infections are relatively mild in healthy individuals, these bacteria can cause problems when it enters the bloodstream and is especially dangerous for children, the elderly and those already ill.
If you’ve been exposed to MRSA at work, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation to cover the cost of your treatment. A workman’s comp attorney can help you determine if you qualify for reimbursement of medical bills.
How MRSA Spreads
The most common way MRSA spreads is through skin-to-skin contact. Although staph bacteria is relatively common — the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimate between 25 and 30% of the population carries staph at any given time — most of this bacteria is fairly harmless. It does not always cause infection, and most infections can be treated easily with methicillin-based antibiotics.
Since MRSA usually appears as sore or boil on the skin, items that touch the infected area may also carry the bacteria. The risk increases when someone with an open wound comes in contact with the MRSA infection.
Workplace Risk Factors
Although anyone can become infected, those who work in healthcare-related fields are far more likely to come in contact with this bacteria. This includes hospitals and physicians offices, as well as nursing homes.
Most employees in these settings already take great care to avoid infection, including frequent hand-washing and wearing gloves.
Employees outside healthcare fields, however, are also at risk. MRSA can spread anywhere with a large number of people, especially when there is close physical contact. Day care centers, college dorms, jails and prisons and even health clubs are listed by the CDC as areas where you may be a risk.
Although you are entitled to workers’ compensation for any illness incurred on-the-job, those infected with MRSA outside the healthcare industry often face struggles with receiving compensation. While the risk is well known and expected in medical facilities, proving you acquired MRSA at work in a non-healthcare field may require the assistance of a workman’s comp attorney.
Pursuing Workers’ Compensation
The primary order of business for receiving reimbursement for medical bills incurred due to MRSA is fulfilling the burden of proof. In most states, your workman’s comp attorney will need to show the court evidence that your infection is, indeed, related to your work. Because these bacteria can be prevalent in communities, your employer’s workers’ compensation insurer may attempt to deny your claim on this basis.
Some states, however, consider MRSA an occupational disease, meaning that it is thought to be primarily contracted in the workplace. In these states, the burden of proof is actually on the workers’ compensation insurance company. Since the disorder is assumed to be occupational, an insurance company wanting to deny a claim must prove the MRSA was contracted elsewhere.
Although MRSA was first discovered in the 1960s, it is only now gaining wide recognition. For this reason, many states have yet to adopt specific laws, and only a few industries encourage proper prevention.
If you have been infected with MRSA on the job, consider contacting a workman’s comp attorney to help you understand the local laws and obtain reimbursement for your medical bills and loss of work.