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Outbreak of Brucellosis at a United States pork packing plant.

Trout D; Gomez TM; Bernard BP; Mueller CA; Smith CG; Hunter L; Kiefer M
J Occup Environ Med 1995 Jun; 37(6):697-703
An outbreak of brucellosis in a North Carolina pork processing factory was examined. In 1992, the North Carolina Department of Environment, Health, and Resources received 18 case reports of brucellosis occurring among employees of the same swine packing factory. Four cases of brucellosis were reported from the factory in 1991. All 18 cases reported in 1992 and serology findings and symptoms were consistent with brucellosis. Eleven had Brucella-suis in the blood at the time of illness. Two patients required hospitalization. All patients were employed on the kill floor of the facility. NIOSH conducted a survey of the facility as part of a health hazard evaluation. Altogether, 154 employees on the kill floor were surveyed for symptoms associated with brucellosis: chills, fever, headache, and myalgia or arthralgia. Blood samples were collected and assayed for brucellosis by the standard tube agglutination antibody titer test. Work practices and use of protective equipment and clothing were observed. Thirty kill floor workers (19%) had serological evidence of or symptomatology consistent with brucellosis. All kill floor workers had considerable potential for skin and conjunctival contact with aerosolized fresh hog tissue or body fluids despite the fact that they were using personal protective equipment such as hard hats, metal mesh gloves, arm guards, and safety shoes. The ventilation system placed the kill floor under negative pressure. Potential risk factors for contracting brucellosis included being nonwhite, a history of being cut or scratched while working, and a history of not washing hands with soap prior to work breaks. The authors conclude that brucellosis remains a major problem for persons employed in the pork processing industry. The major preventive measure is to process only swine certified to be brucellosis free, and recommendations for lessening the impact of the disease include increased education among workers and supervisors, prompt medical assessments for symptomatic workers, and use of appropriate personal protective equipment.
NIOSH-Author; Slaughterhouses; Bacterial-infections; Risk-factors; Occupational-diseases; Food-processing-industry; Livestock; Epidemiology; Serological-techniques; Occupational-medicine
Dr Douglas Trout, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, R-10, 4676 Columbia Parkway, Cincinnati, OH 45226
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Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine
Page last reviewed: December 28, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division