Firefighter injury attorney, Brent Eames, recently wrote about the passage of House Bill 3662 in the Illinois Senate, which was intended to create a “rebuttable presumption” with respect to firefighters, and emergency medical technicians who contract methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in the course of their employment. On August 20, 2021, Governor Pritzker finally signed into law the Public Act 102-0493, which officially amended Section 6 (f) of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act to reflect this new benefit for injured firefighters and paramedics. Keep reading to learn more from our top firefighter injury attorney about the new change in the law.
Section 6(f) of the Illinois Work Comp Act addresses occupational diseases compensable under the Act. In particular, under Section 6(f), if a firefighter, emergency medical technician (EMT), emergency medical technician-intermediate (EMT-I), advanced emergency medical technician (A-EMT), or paramedic, develops any condition or impairment as a direct or indirect result of any bloodborne pathogen, lung respiratory disease or condition, heart or vascular disease or condition, hypertension, tuberculosis, or cancer, causing any disability, then, there is a rebuttable presumption that the disability arose out of and in the course of such person’s employment and is compensable under the Act. A causal connection is also presumed between the disability and the claimant’s employment. The Public Act 102-0493 amended Section 6(f) and added infections caused by Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus to the list of illnesses resulting in disability, temporary, permanent, total, or partial, that is presumed to arise out of and in the course of first respondent’s employment which ought to be compensable under the Act. MRSA is a highly contagious bacterial infection that can be contracted either through contact with a sick individual or with a surface containing the bacteria. It is difficult to treat, because MRSA is resistant to numerous antibiotics. A vast majority of MRSA infections are associated with hospitals and nursing homes. Nevertheless, during the past 10 years, there was a dramatic increase in MRSA infections that are hospital-acquired or those that were community-acquired through public gyms, schools, or workplaces.
First responders have higher exposure rates to MRSA than members of the general public. A study conducted by the professor from the University of Washington, Marilyn Roberts, found that 20 percent of the firefighters / paramedics who volunteered to participate in the study carried MRSA and the strains that they carried were related to environmental transmission. In the course of the same study, Professor Roberts also collected more than 1,000 samples from various surfaces at fire stations, interiors of the firetrucks, and from the firefighter’s protective gear. The results revealed that 4% of those samples contained MRSA corroborating the environmental transmission theory. The results of the study are not surprising. First responders come into contact with a large number of individuals and act as liaison between hospitals and injured members of the general public.
Although there are only a few studies conducted on the subject, Public Act 102-0493 is an important step in ensuring that Illinois first responders are protected when they become disabled as a result of contracting MRSA infection while performing their regular employment duties.
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The content of this blog is intended for informational purposes only and does constitute or establish an attorney-client relationship, nor constitute legal advice. If you wish to discuss any further aspect of the material contained herein, please contact attorney for first responders, Brent Eames, at Eames Law Group, Ltd.