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BSG: Clinical symptoms must also be present
A single tick-borne infection with Lyme bacteria does not yet constitute recognition as an occupational disease. In addition to an infection during an insured activity, typical symptoms of illness must also be added, judged on Tuesday, June 27, 2017, the Federal Social Court (BSG) in Kassel (ref .: B 2 U 17/15 R).
So-called Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. The pathogens enter the body through a tick bite and can lead to fever, chronic joint problems, paralysis or even persistent fatigue and weakness without early treatment with antibiotics.
In the case now decided, a forester from Bavaria had sued. The man farmed his own 4.28 hectare forest property. When he went to see his doctor in June 2008 for joint problems and irregular heartbeat, he attributed it to a tick bite he suffered in May 2007. Apparently, he was infected with Lyme pathogens. In fact, antibodies have been found that form the body's immune system to ward off the bacteria.
From the social insurance for agriculture, forestry and horticulture as an agricultural professional association (BG), he wanted the Lyme infection to be recognized as an occupational disease.
The BG rejected the application. There are no typical Lyme disease symptoms. The joint complaints were due to wear. Cardiac arrhythmias are not typical for Lyme disease. The forester had raised antibodies against the Lyme pathogens, but this was only an indication that the man's immune system had successfully warded off the infection. There is no clinical picture.
The Bavarian State Social Court (LSG) also refused to be recognized as an occupational disease. However, the Munich judges did not consider it necessary to prove that the infection was suffered while performing the insured activity. In southern Germany, ticks are so heavily infested with borrelia that infection can be assumed when working in the forest. Here, however, there is still no typical clinical picture.
The BSG also saw no reason to assume an occupational disease. An infection with Lyme pathogens alone is not enough to be recognized as an occupational disease. The typical clinical key symptoms should also be present. Only then can the necessary "full evidence" for an occupational disease be provided.
However, the plaintiff had only a few antibodies that indicate contact with ticks. His joint complaints were not due to Lyme disease, nor were the heart complaints typical.
In addition, the Kassel judges emphasized that an occupational disease could only exist if it was suffered as a result of an insured activity. It is doubtful whether the high infection with ticks with Lyme disease pathogens existing in southern Germany is proof enough.
Ultimately, however, this could be left as the plaintiff does not have the typical clinical symptoms of Lyme disease. Recognition as an occupational disease is therefore not possible. fle / mwo