Sunday, July 3, 2011

NSW Government admits import risk and cannot rule out locally attained Lyme

"In April 2011, NSW Health convened an expert panel with expertise in public health, epidemiology, infectious diseases, rickettsial diseases and entomology to provide advice on the current risk of Lyme disease in NSW. The panel concluded that although locally-acquired Lyme disease cannot be ruled out, there is little evidence that it occurs in Australia. The panel also noted that there was a continuing risk of overseas-acquired Lyme disease being imported into NSW."

Above except from NSW Health Factsheet quoted from website:

*** The following Worker's Compensation Case below is for information purposes only and it's contents or opinion on Lyme existence in Australian ticks doesn't align with my own views on such matters. It does however demonstrate yet another case of Lyme Disease in Australia regardless of origin or responsibility.
Further research to provide adequate testing and treatment of all Australian is desperately required.***


The Background

A tick bite can be a nasty thing – in particular, the possibility of contracting the potentially very dangerous Lyme disease. In the short term, Lyme disease causes fever, headache, depression and a skin rash called Erythema migrans. However it’s the long term you really want to be worried about. Left untreated, Lyme disease can result in severe chronic symptoms in major organs, such as the brain and the heart – sometimes even resulting in permanent paralysis.

Of course, the details of this serious infection were the furthest thing from a marketing/customer service manager’s mind when he took a work trip to Germany in 1993. As part of his trip his visited the famous Black Forest several times. Unfortunately for him, he was bitten by a deer tick and unknowingly contracted the disease. In 1996, three years after his visit to Germany, the then-32-year-old suffered a stroke and paralysis from apical mural thrombus in an enlarged heart. He also developed epilepsy. By 1997, he required a heart transplant. In 1998 he discovered small pimple like-lesions on his body, and by 2004, he had a serious skin condition covering his right flank and armpit. A skin-punch test determined that he was suffering from late-stage Lyme disease. While it is unlikely that Australian ticks carry the bacteria which cause the infection, the Black Forest is a known hot-spot for the tiny parasites that do.

The Claim

The worker was unable to return to work after his stroke in 1996. In 2007, he made a claim pursuant to the Accident Compensation Act 1985 (Vic) against his employer, Wurth Australia Pty Limited. Wurth rejected the claim on two bases: first, that it did not arise out of or in the course of employment; secondly, that the employee’s employment was not a significant contributing factor to the claimed injury.

The Decisions

In 2010, a medical panel of a Victorian County Court found that the workers cardiac dysfunction, stroke, epilepsy and skin lesions were a result of the Lyme disease contracted during the course of employment.

Wurth applied for a judicial review of the medical panel. The grounds on which they requested the review centered around two points – firstly, that a jurisdictional error had occurred in that the medical panel had relied on “inaccurate factual material” in the form of accepting ‘a small number of cases histologically proven Lyme related cardiomyopathy’ had been reported, even though its research had only uncovered one such case. Justice Macaulay rejected such an argument.

Secondly, Wurth argued that they had not been allowed procedural fairness as they weren’t given adequate reasons for its decision, and the company hadn’t been provided with an opportunity to be heard on certain critical medical issues that were before the panel, but which it had allegedly not been advised. However his Honour deemed that the panel had carefully considered all other possible causes for the worker’s conditions.

The application for a judicial appeal was dismissed.

What should employers take away from this tale of parasites, paralysis and procedural fairness?

Well it should certainly be noted that even while participating in seemingly ‘recreational’ activities on a work trip, the employer can still be held liable for injuries sustained. Employers should ensure that employees away on business trips are aware that non-work related recreational activities (especially ones with high-risk factors, such as skiing, watersports and adventure sports) are not advised and are at the employees own risk.

Employers should have a clearly written policy covering permitted and not permitted conduct whilst employees are away from the office for business purposes.

Employers should also ensure that such a policy is regularly communicated to all employees.

Quoted from website:

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