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Insect-borne illnesses rise, put outdoor workers at high risk

Illnesses caused by mosquito, tick and flea bites have been on the rise throughout Pennsylvania and the rest of the U.S. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released a new report saying that between 2004 and 2016, the number of cases involving such illnesses has more than tripled. Over 640,000 cases arose within that 12-year period.

The domestic diseases most frequently reported include Zika fever, dengue fever, Lyme disease and plague. These and other insect-borne diseases tend to share similar symptoms -- fatigue, fever, muscle pain, skin rash and even paralysis. According to the CDC, commerce that moves insects across the country may partly be to blame for causing the rise.

Outdoor workers are especially vulnerable to insect-borne diseases. However, 84 percent of local and state health departments and vector control agencies are lacking in one or more core competencies, preventing them from effectively protecting more workers.

The CDC singled out five core competencies. They are: keeping mosquitoes under surveillance, making treatment decisions that are based on this surveillance data, killing mosquitoes and ticks at every stage of life, providing source reduction and environmental management, and testing insects for resistance to pesticides.

Workers, for their part, should wear light clothing, maintain clean work sites and use insect repellent with 20 to 50 percent DEET. Exposing the least amount of skin is important.

Insect-borne illnesses can be considered workplace injuries, which means victims can be eligible for workers' compensation benefits. However, the filing process can be a lot easier with legal assistance. Victims won't be blaming the employer or anyone else for their injuries; all they need to do is show that the injuries are work-related. If the claim is denied, the lawyer could help with an appeal.

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