Ohio workers may have a number of concerns about health and safety on the job, but one of them is getting attention around the world: novel coronavirus, or 2019-nCoV. Whenever a new viral disease emerges on a global scale, new analysis can be important to determine how it could affect workers on the job. Wuhan, China, where the coronavirus developed, has seen severe restrictions on public activity and interaction in an attempt to stop the disease from spreading. Health care workers, however, have remained at particular risk. Official records note that 16 health workers were already infected as of early February 2020, some of them before the new disease was fully identified.
The World Health Organization has declared that novel coronavirus is a global health emergency, and the Chinese government is taking extensive efforts to stamp out the virus. Still, coronavirus has already spread due to travel, especially before people realized that they were sick or that the new virus existed. There have been several cases of coronavirus confirmed in the U.S. and Canada. Workers may be particularly concerned about their rights if they develop coronavirus on the job or due to exposure mandated by their profession.
In 2009, a major flu epidemic linked to H1N1, which originated in the United States, also constituted a global health emergency. The Department of Health and Human Services activated a special emergency fund to access unapproved drugs while various programs aimed to provide workers’ compensation benefits to employees who could not work due to flu-related shutdowns and closures, causing them to lose out on the wages needed to pay their bills.
If coronavirus or another illness spreads widely within a workplace, it may be considered a form of occupational disease. Workers affected by the disease may consult with a workers’ compensation attorney about their eligibility for benefits.