State News : Texas

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We in Texas are at ground zero in the Ebola scare. The first person to test positive for the disease

in the United States treated at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, and two of his nurses contracted

the virus and were quarantined. These events have raised questions regarding the interplay between

Ebola and workers’ compensation insurance coverage. Specifically, under what circumstances is a

worker covered under a workers’ compensation insurance policy if the worker tests positive for the

Ebola virus or is quarantined for monitoring?

This question has no bright-line answer. On the one hand, a compensable injury includes an

occupational disease. On the other hand, the term occupational disease does not include an ordinary

disease of life to which the general public is exposed outside of employment.

Generally speaking, to prove a compensable occupational disease, a worker must show that the

disease is indigenous to the work or present in an increased degree in that work as compared with

employment generally. Using that standard, the two quarantined hospital nurses probably can meet

their burden of proof to show that their conditions are compensable. The same is true for others on

the front line, such as laboratory workers and emergency responders.

But what about those who are not on the front lines but still face possible exposure, such as airline

flight attendants? Or workers who travel on airlines for business? Would they be covered?

The blogosphere is red hot with discussions of questions like these as insurance carriers, employers,

and state regulators scramble to find answers.