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Malaria in the seafaring industry

PINOY MARINO RIGHTS: Malaria in the seafaring industry
ATTY. DENNIS R. GORECHO |February 27,2019

It is a well-known fact that seafaring is one of the most hazardous occupations, in regards to personal health and safety concerns of seafarers.

The work on seagoing vessels is long associated with an increased risk of loss of health and life. Because of their nature of work, seafarers are bound to visit many ports in different parts of the world and are thus exposed to various pandemic and epidemic diseases, sometimes with fatal consequences.

Falling ill at sea or at a port far away from home can be a very difficult situation for the seafarer and his family and a challenge for the remaining crew and the ship operator

Apart from accidents, seafarers are prone to certain serious diseases and health hazards due to the nature of onboard work, change in climatic conditions, type of cargo carried, working hours, materials being handled, epidemic and endemic diseases, and personal habits.

One of the infections that a seafarer may suffer while on board the vessel is malaria which is predominantly a disease affecting Africa, South and Central America, Asia, and the Middle East.

Malaria is a preventable, life-threatening disease that can disrupt the blood supply to vital organ.

The plasmodium parasite which causes malaria is spread by the bite of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes and cannot be transmitted directly between humans.

Malaria as one of the listed infectious disease that a seafarer may suffer during the effectivity of his contract is a disease resulting from the presence and activity of pathogenic microbial agents in the body. Infectious diseases are recognized as an occupational hazard in seafaring and are closely connected to the conditions of working and living onboard.

For a sick seafarer to be entitled to medical benefits under the POEA-Standard Employment Contract (SEC), he must have suffered work related illness which is defined as any sickness resulting to disability or death as a result of one of the twenty-four (24) occupational diseases listed under Section 32-A of the said contract. .

It is also not sufficient to simply establish that the seafarer’s illness or injury has rendered him permanently or partially disabled; it must also be shown that there is a causal connection between the seafarer’s illness or injury and the work for which he had been contracted .

Symptoms are flu-like, including : fever (often exceeding 40°C), chills, malaise. nausea and vomiting, fatigue, myalgia (muscle pain), headaches, and sweating.

The symptoms of the most life-threatening type of malaria are usually experienced between one week and two months after infection. A typical attack lasts 8-12 hours.

On rare occasions, the symptoms do not occur until 3 months after the infection in case of falciparum malaria, and more than 1 year after for the 3 other types.

A seafarer with severe falciparum malaria may show signs of confusion, drowsiness, extreme weakness and may develop cerebral malaria with convulsions, an unrousable coma and rapid death.

Since one of the requirement for an illness to be compensable is that the seafarer suffered said illness during the effectivity of the POEA contract, it is imperative that his condition or symptoms must be documented while he is on board the vessel.

Otherwise, his claim for disability benefits might be denied due to failure to prove that said illness occurred while his contract is still in force.