In preparation for a Smallpox epidemic, the US government, several years ago, issued rules concerning illness flowing from the distribution of smallpox vaccine. Now the focus will switch from not only compensable conditions flowing from preparation to compensable and contagious diseases in the workplace.
CDC directs to workers' compensation programs
The federal government established a no-fault program entitled the Smallpox Emergency Personnel Protection Act of 2003 (SEPPA) in an effort to provide benefits and/or compensation to certain individuals, including health-care workers and emergency responders, who are injured as a result of the administration of smallpox countermeasures including the smallpox (vaccinia) vaccine. The Department of Health and Human Services, under rule making authority, established a vaccine injury table and procedural process for filing a request for benefits and/or compensation under the Program.
Already the CDC reported today, "Human cases of swine influenza A (H1N1) virus infection have been identified in the U.S. in San Diego County and Imperial County, California as well as in San Antonio, Texas. Internationally, human cases of swine influenza A (H1N1) virus infection have been identified in Mexico."
The CDC has reported that Swine flu has impacted the US in the past: "Like seasonal flu, swine flu in humans can vary in severity from mild to severe. Between 2005 until January 2009, 12 human cases of swine flu were detected in the U.S. with no deaths occurring. However, swine flu infection can be serious. In September 1988, a previously healthy 32-year-old pregnant woman in Wisconsin was hospitalized for pneumonia after being infected with swine flu and died 8 days later. A swine flu outbreak in Fort Dix, New Jersey occurred in 1976 that caused more than 200 cases with serious illness in several people and one death."
State Workers' Compensation Programs
As new cases become suspect, concern will focuss on the spread of the disease in the workplace environment. Over 75 students are being tested in New York City. The Governor of California has issued an alert. As of now the Federal government is directing individuals to their local workers' compensation programs. Since a pandemic could be considered a challenge tochallenge to Homeland Security, the federalization of prevention, treatment and compensation may ultimately result in expansion of a nationalization of the program.