Anthrax is an infectious disease caused by the inhalation of, ingestion of, or skin exposure to a spore-forming bacteria. Though it is most often spread through contact with animals or animal products, anthrax is most widely known for its use as an agent of biological warfare.

There are a substantial number of individuals with the potential to suffer from anthrax exposure due to their employment. Occupations at risk due to contact with animals include veterinarians and their assistants, farmers, butchers, and taxidermists. Additionally, health care workers are at risk in caring for and treating people for anthrax. Though anthrax is not contagious, health care workers may come in contact with anthrax spores on the clothing, skin, or personal effects of the patients.

There are many occupations where employees would not normally come in contact with anthrax. However, the use of anthrax as a weapon of terrorists can subject these workers to the disease. For example, policemen, firefighters, and emergency medical technicians responding to a terrorist-induced emergency may become exposed. Consider also employees such as mailroom clerks who may come in contact with a letter or package that has been contaminated with anthrax spores or executives or government officials to whom such mail is delivered.

Some states have contemplated and provided for workers’ compensation claims that result from anthrax exposure due to bioterrorist activity and otherwise. For example, workers’ compensation benefits are payable only as the result of an injury or illness that arose out of the worker’s employment. Ohio, however, has provided for the allowance of claims for testing based on only the exposure to anthrax. Should the worker actually contract anthrax, the claim is handled as one for an occupational disease. In New York, a list of illnesses, which are presumed to be occupational diseases if contracted by individuals through their employment, includes anthrax.

Copyright 2012 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.