Learn how to prevent a tetanus infection and file a workers’ compensation claim if you’re affected
People often don’t think about tetanus in their workplace. However, the bacterial infection is an occupational hazard for many workers.
Tetanus spores are virtually everywhere in the environment, including soil, dust and animal manure. If the spores enter your body through an external wound, they develop into a bacterial infection that can be fatal.
Fortunately, tetanus is not transmissible from person to person, and the current vaccine is effective at preventing infection. If you’ve experienced a tetanus infection at work in Georgia, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits for medical expenses and lost wages.
Learn the differences between workers’ comp claims and personal injury lawsuits so you can get maximum compensation after a work injury.
How tetanus infections occur at work
Tetanus causes death in 1 in 5 people who become infected. Professions that expose workers to an increased risk of wounds, scratches and cuts are more likely to require workers to get vaccinated against the disease.
Examples of those professions include:
- Health care
- Food preparation and service
Tetanus spores may be able to enter your body at work through:
- Puncture wounds
- Chronic sores (sores that don’t heal)
- Compound fractures (a fracture in which the bone breaks through the skin)
- Insect bites
The infection can spread through wounds contaminated with dirt or bodily fluids, like saliva or feces. More severe injuries like a crushed body part or an injury with dead tissue can also be susceptible to tetanus infection.
Symptoms of tetanus
Tetanus is commonly referred to as “lockjaw” because it causes tightening of the jaw muscles, which makes it difficult for victims to open their mouths. People who have the illness may also struggle with swallowing and breathing.
Other symptoms include:
- Fever and sweating
- Fast heart rate (tachycardia)
- Stiff muscles in the face, abdomen and back
- Painful muscle spasms near the wound area
- Cramping in the jaw
- Changes in blood pressure
It usually takes 3 to 21 days after exposure for symptoms to emerge. However, the incubation period may be 1 month or longer in some cases. Symptoms are likely to arise earlier if a wound is more heavily contaminated or if the infection is more severe.
Treatment for tetanus
Each patient’s treatment for tetanus depends on several factors. In addition to patient preference, doctors consider the following:
- The patient’s age
- The patient’s overall health and medical history
- The degree of illness
- The patient’s ability to tolerate certain treatment options
- The length of time the disease is expected to last
Cases that produce mild symptoms can typically be treated by thoroughly cleaning the wound and, if necessary, administering a course of antitoxin injections.
Doctors may prescribe specific medications to alleviate symptoms like muscle spasms, pain, and rapid heartbeat. Antibiotics may also be ordered to treat the infection.
If the patient has difficulty breathing, they may also need to be hospitalized and put on a ventilator (breathing machine).
Learn about the vital role your authorized treating physician will play in your work injury case.
Workers’ compensation for tetanus injuries
In Georgia, most employers with 3 or more employees are required to provide their workers with workers’ compensation insurance. This means most workers who are classified as employees are eligible to file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits as long as their injury occurred while they were performing their work duties.
These benefits include:
- Medical expenses. These include all necessary medical treatments, such as medications, hospitalizations, doctor visits, surgeries, rehabilitation, and medical supplies and equipment.
- Lost wages. If the illness causes the worker to take time off, they’re typically entitled to two-thirds of their average weekly wages while they recover.
- Death benefits. If a worker dies from a work-related injury or illness, their dependents are entitled to benefits for funeral expenses and lost wages.
How do I file a workers’ comp claim in Georgia?
Take the following steps to start a workers’ compensation claim in Georgia:
- Seek medical attention. If you believe you have tetanus, seek medical attention immediately, as it could be a medical emergency. Medical care will also provide documentation of your injury, which is important for a workers’ comp claim.
- Notify your employer. Georgia law requires workers who contract tetanus or are otherwise injured while on the job to notify their employer within 30 days of learning they’ve become infected. After they receive notification, your employer must notify its workers’ compensation insurance company of the injury. You will then be required to see a physician specified by your employer for treatment.
- File a claim. To start the claim process, you must file Form WC-14 with the State Board of Workers’ Compensation.
- Contact an attorney. If you need help filing a claim or your claim is denied, contact an attorney to ensure your right to compensation is protected.
Preventing tetanus at work
Tetanus vaccination is highly effective at preventing employers from contracting the illness. Therefore, workers who have a high risk of being cut by an object with sharp edges or sustaining cuts, crushing injuries or puncture wounds are often required to get vaccinated.
In addition to vaccination, workers who get hurt on the job should immediately and properly clean open wounds and apply antiseptic ointment.
Employers should supply protective equipment to minimize the risk of workers becoming injured, and employees should adhere to all workplace safety protocols.
How an attorney can help with a workers’ comp claim
The workers’ compensation process is designed to be accessible to employees. However, the process is often more complicated than it seems, and small mistakes can often hurt your claim.
Common points of disagreement in workers’ comp claims between employers and employees include the following:
- The amount of benefits an injured worker is eligible to receive
- The date the doctor recommends an injured worker to return to work
- How long an injured worker can receive workers’ comp benefits
Attorneys understand their state’s workers’ compensation laws. Therefore, if a challenge arises in the process, they can quickly address the issue and keep the process moving along. If your claim is denied, a workers’ comp attorney can file an appeal on your behalf.
Contact a Georgia workers’ compensation attorney
If you’ve been infected with tetanus or suffered any other injury or illness at work in Atlanta, contact Gerber & Holder Workers’ Compensation Attorneys to learn about your rights. Our attorneys have over 75 years of combined experience helping injured workers across Georgia recover compensation after an injury. We’re here for you and ready to fight for the compensation you deserve.