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MMWR – Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report

1. Chlorine Gas Release at a Poultry Processing Plant — Arkansas, 2011

Division of News & Electronic Media

When communicating about job hazards management should consider the literacy, education level, and native language of employees. A Spanish-speaking employee at a poultry processing plant in Arkansas began to fill a 55-gallon drum with sodium hypochlorite that unknowingly contained a residual acidic antimicrobial solution. The mixing of these substances resulted in a release of chlorine gas into the plant where about 600 workers were present.  Chlorine gas is a poisonous gas and lung irritant. When it comes into contact with moist tissue such as the eyes, throat and lungs, an acid is produced that can damage these tissues.  More than 150 employees were hospitalized, five of whom required admission to the intensive care unit. Six months after the incident, three employees continued to have abnormal breathing tests consistent with reactive airways dysfunction syndrome, also known as irritant-induced asthma. The drum that was filled with sodium hypochlorite was labeled in English. The worker that filled the drum could read only in Spanish. Of the 545 participants in this investigation, 17 percent primarily spoke English, 68 percent primarily spoke Spanish, 12 percent primarily spoke Marshallese, and 3 percent spoke other languages. This preventable incident highlights the importance of training workers about the hazards of their jobs in a manner they can understand. All communication, training, and signage in the workplace should be easy-to-read and provided in languages understood by employees.

2. Mumps Outbreak on a University Campus — California, 2011

Division of News & Electronic Media

Recognition and prompt reporting of clinically suspected mumps, prior to laboratory confirmation, facilitates early implementation of control measures and can mitigate outbreaks.  A mumps outbreak occurred on a university campus without a prematriculation MMR vaccination requirement.  The presumed source case-patient was an unvaccinated student with recent travel to Western Europe.  Although mumps was suspected, public health authorities were not initially notified because of student privacy issues and laws.  As a result, outbreak management was hindered because of delayed access to students’ medical records.

3. Update: Influenza Activity — United States and Worldwide

Division of News & Electronic Media

Influenza activity is increasing in the United States but there is still time to get vaccinated. Most of the influenza viruses characterized thus far this season are well matched to the 2012–13 vaccine viruses and sensitive to the antiviral drugs oseltamivir and zanamivir. Vaccination remains the most effective method to prevent influenza and its complications. December 2–8, 2012, is National Influenza Vaccination Week. This observance serves as a reminder that health-care providers should continue to offer vaccine to all unvaccinated persons aged greater than or equal to 6 months throughout the influenza season.

Note: The influenza update in this week’s MMWR covers activity through the week ending November 24, 2012. This corresponds to surveillance and virologic data presented in FluView last Friday, November 30, which also was addressed in the Monday, December 3 telebriefing conducted by Drs. Frieden and Wharton. New activity data for the week ending December 1, 2012 – including data on flu-related hospitalizations in the United States for the first time during 2012-2013 – will appear in the Friday, December 7, 2012 FluView.


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