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Infectious Disease & Long-Term Disability Benefits

What is an “Infectious Disease”?

An infectious disease is a type of illness caused by harmful organisms such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites. These microorganisms, often referred to as pathogens, invade the body’s cells, multiply, and interfere with normal bodily functions, leading to the signs and symptoms of the disease. These diseases can be spread, directly or indirectly, from one person to another. Direct transmission can occur through touch, bodily fluids, airborne particles, or even through a bite from an insect or animal. Indirect transmission could occur via contaminated surfaces, food, water, or vectors like mosquitoes or ticks.

Infectious diseases can significantly impact an individual’s ability to perform their job or even maintain regular employment. For instance, the symptoms associated with these diseases such as fever, fatigue, muscle aches, cough, and other physical discomforts can impair productivity and focus, making it difficult for the individual to fulfill their job duties effectively. Some diseases may also require isolation or quarantine to prevent spread, leading to missed work days. In certain professions, particularly those that involve close contact with people, like healthcare, education, or customer service, the risk of transmission is higher, potentially leading to temporary or permanent workplace closures. Additionally, long-term effects of some infections, known as post-acute sequelae, can result in prolonged disability, further challenging the individual’s work capacity. Hence, infectious diseases can cause substantial disruption to one’s occupation and overall economic stability.

The end result, unfortunately, is that many workers end up relying on long-term disability benefits to support themselves when they are unable to continue working.

Categories of Infectious Diseases

Infectious diseases are caused by pathogenic microorganisms, such as bacteria, viruses, parasites or fungi; these diseases can be spread, directly or indirectly, from one person to another. Infectious diseases pass between people. If you have an infectious disease it is likely that it falls into one of these 6 categories:

  • Blood-borne infections like Hepatitis A/B/C, HIV/AIDS
  • Enteric Diseases like botulism, typhoid fever, cholera
  • Respiratory Diseases like COVID-19, influenza, tuberculosis
  • Sexually Transmitted Infections like herpes, Chlamydia, gonorrhea
  • Vaccine-Preventable Diseases like measles, smallpox, rubella
  • Vector-borne/Zoonotic Diseases like malaria, rabies, Zika virus

Common Types of Infectious Diseases

Here are some of the most common types of infectious diseases worldwide:

Respiratory Infections: These are diseases that impact the respiratory system, including the common cold, influenza (flu), pneumonia, tuberculosis (TB), and the COVID-19, caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Gastrointestinal Infections: These are diseases that affect the stomach and intestines. They include infections like norovirus, E. coli, Salmonella, and other forms of food poisoning.

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs): STIs include diseases like human papillomavirus (HPV), herpes, HIV/AIDS, gonorrhea, syphilis, and chlamydia.

Hepatitis: Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver usually caused by viral infections. There are five main hepatitis viruses, referred to as types A, B, C, D and E.

Malaria: This is a mosquito-borne disease caused by a parasite. While not as common in more developed countries, it’s a major health issue in many tropical and subtropical regions.

Dengue: Dengue is a mosquito-borne viral infection causing a severe flu-like illness and, sometimes causing a potentially lethal complication called severe dengue or dengue hemorrhagic fever.

Zoonotic Diseases: These are diseases that spread between animals and humans. Examples include rabies, West Nile virus, Lyme disease, and Zika virus.

Fungal Infections: Fungi can cause a range of diseases, from superficial infections such as athlete’s foot and yeast infections to systemic, potentially life-threatening diseases like cryptococcosis or histoplasmosis.

Parasitic Infections: These are caused by parasites, which can live on or in a host organism and feed off of it. Examples include toxoplasmosis, giardiasis, and trichomoniasis.

Prevention and treatment of infectious diseases can range from good personal hygiene and vaccination to specific antiviral, antibacterial, antiparasitic, and antifungal medications.

Has an Infectious Disease Compromised your Ability to Work?

Infectious diseases, such as COVID-19, can have profound impacts on an individual’s ability to work, oftentimes leading to a long-term inability to maintain employment.

An infectious disease can significantly impact a person’s ability to work or maintain full-time employment in several ways:

Physical Symptoms: Many infectious diseases cause severe physical symptoms that can hinder work. This can include fatigue, weakness, pain, fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, shortness of breath, and many others. These symptoms can decrease productivity, necessitate time off, and even make it impossible to fulfill job responsibilities.

Chronic Health Conditions: Some infectious diseases, like HIV/AIDS or hepatitis, can become chronic health conditions that persist over the long term. These chronic conditions can periodically flare up, causing symptoms that impact work. Furthermore, chronic conditions often require regular medical appointments, which can take time away from work.

Hospitalization: Severe infectious diseases can require hospitalization. This can lead to a significant amount of time away from work, and recovery after hospitalization can be lengthy.

Cognitive Impact: Certain infectious diseases can impact cognitive function, affecting memory, attention, decision-making, and other mental abilities necessary for many jobs. Examples include neurologic Lyme disease and neurocognitive impairment due to HIV infection.

Stigma and Discrimination: Unfortunately, there can be significant stigma associated with certain infectious diseases (e.g., HIV/AIDS). This can lead to discrimination in the workplace, which can affect job opportunities and job retention.

Mental Health Impact: Dealing with an infectious disease can lead to stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. These can affect a person’s ability to work and might require additional time off for mental health care.

Infectiousness: If a person has an infectious disease that can be easily spread to others (e.g., tuberculosis, influenza, or COVID-19), they may need to take time off work or work from home to avoid infecting colleagues. In some cases, public health laws may require them to isolate or quarantine.

Employers can support employees dealing with infectious diseases through policies such as paid sick leave, flexibility in work hours or duties, allowing work from home, and by ensuring a supportive and non-discriminatory work environment. Legal protections also exist in many places to protect employees with health conditions, such as non-discrimination laws and disability protections.

If I suffer from an Infectious Disease what are my Employment Rights?

The Ontario Human Rights Code asserts that every person has a right to equal treatment with respect to employment, without discrimination due to various factors, including but not limited to race, age, gender, disability, or religion. A vital part of this legislation is the principle of accommodation, which mandates that your employer must take active steps to enable the full participation of employees in the workplace. This could involve modifying job duties, changing work hours, or providing assistive technologies for an individual with a disability. The principle of accommodation is not without limits, however. Your employer is only expected to accommodate to the point of ‘undue hardship’, which considers factors such as cost, outside sources of funding, and health and safety requirements. This means that while your employer is obligated to make significant efforts to accommodate your needs, they are not expected to undertake measures that would seriously harm their business.

If I suffer from an Infectious Disease, am I entitled to Disability Benefits?

It depends. If your medical evidence proves that your infectious disease related symptoms prevent you from completing the substantial duties of your own job, then you will be entitled to long-term disability benefits for at minimum – 2 years. If after two years, your medical evidence proves that your symptoms prevent you from completing the substantial duties of any job for which you are reasonably trained by way of your education, training or experience, then you will be entitled to long-term disability benefits. It’s best to always talk to a qualified long-term disability lawyer with experience to help answer all your disability related questions.

Do you have a question about the Interaction between Infectious Disease and Employment Law or Long-Term Disability?

Infectious diseases represent a serious global health concern with wide-ranging impacts, extending beyond physical health to economic stability and productivity. The consequences on an individual’s capacity to work and maintain employment can be significant. Acute symptoms often necessitate time away from work for treatment and recovery, while chronic conditions may result in frequent absences due to medical appointments or flare-ups. Cognitive impairments from certain diseases can interfere with job performance, and the mental health toll of managing an infectious disease can further exacerbate these challenges. Moreover, the risk of spreading the disease to others may require isolation or changes in work circumstances. The societal and individual implications underscore the necessity of preventive measures, supportive workplace policies, and comprehensive public health strategies to manage the impacts of infectious diseases.

If you have any questions regarding Infectious Disease and compromised work ability, termination issues or Long-Term Disability we can help. Our Disability Lawyers have been representing terminated employees and disability claimants since 1984. We have recovered tens of millions in wrongfully denied disability benefits and can help you get your benefits back on track.  Contact us today no matter where you are in Canada by calling us at 1-844-4-DISABILITY. Alternatively you can email us confidentially and our intake specialist will help you set up an appointment in-person, by phone or by virtual video conference. Our Disability Lawyers are based in Hamilton and serve disability claimants all across Canada.



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Can an infectious disease affect someone’s ability to work?

The symptoms and side effects of an infectious disease can be serious and can sometimes make working impossible. Someone’s every day living activities – such as bathing and eating – might be compromised. It can also be difficult to maintain social relationships, making it hard to develop effective working relationships. As well, the disease can cause anxiety and stress which makes concentrating and finishing tasks very challenging.

Can I apply for disability benefits if I have an infectious disease?

Maybe. You can qualify for long-term disability benefits due to an infectious disease if your symptoms and/or side effects make it impossible to perform the substantial duties of your own occupation.

If I have an infectious disease, can I get disability benefits?

Most likely. An infectious disease can be considered a disability if you meet the definition of “total disability” within your insurance policy.  For the first two years you must be able to pass the “own occupation” test, which means that you are unable to complete the regular duties of your own job.   After that you must be able to pass the “any occupation” test, which means you can’t complete the duties of “any occupation” you might be qualified for.

I need to work to feed my family, but the side effects of an infectious disease make it impossible. What should I do?

If you are having difficulty working due to the side effects of an infectious disease and you have been paying into an insurance plan, you have the right to apply for disability benefits through your private insurer.

I have side effects from an infectious disease, but my long-term disability benefits were denied. Should I appeal?

Having your long-term disability benefits denied can be frustrating and disheartening, but do not try to appeal if your long-term disability benefits have been denied. This is ineffective because appealing to the same company that denied you in the first place is a waste of your valuable time. Contact a Disability Lawyer immediately.


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