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Health hazard evaluation report: HETA-2011-0058-3157, campylobacter infection and exposures among employees at a poultry processing plant - Virginia.

de Perio MA; Gibbins JD; Niemeier RT
Cincinnati, OH: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, HETA 2011-0058-3157, 2012 Apr; :1-31
In February 2011, we received a health hazard evaluation (HHE) request from employer representatives at a poultry processing plant in Virginia. The request concerned the occurrence of Campylobacter infections among employees, especially among those working in the live hang area of the plant. During our visit to the plant in May 2011, we reviewed work procedures and training materials for employees and records from the plant medical office. We learned more about the plant's ventilation system and its environmental sampling program for chlorine and Campylobacter. We also interviewed 88 employees and observed work practices. We reviewed the confirmed cases of Campylobacter infection among plant employees. We found 29 cases of laboratory-confirmed Campylobacter infection among plant employees during a 3½-year period. Most of these employees worked in the live hang area, worked at the plant for less than a month before illness onset, and were residents of a diversion center (a residential program operated by the Virginia Department of Corrections). We also found that approximately 15% of more than 3,000 encounters at the plant's medical office from January 2010 through September 2011 were related to gastrointestinal symptoms. In addition, almost one third of the 88 employees interviewed reported being ill with gastrointestinal symptoms in a 5-month period before the interview, and fewer than half of these employees reported their illness to the plant. Therefore, gastrointestinal illness was quite common and appeared to be underreported. The absence of paid sick leave may have played a role in this underreporting. Of all employees, receiving/live hang area employees appeared to be particularly affected by gastrointestinal illness. We also observed inconsistent hand hygiene and personal protective equipment (PPE) use in the live hang area; these observations agreed with the self-reported practices of interviewed employees. Employees also reported having to pay for some PPE. We observed that the ventilation system had 20 supply air vents above the heads of the live hang area employees. These vents directed air at a downward angle toward the conveyor where the chickens were located before they were shackled. This could have led to the potential to aerosolize or spread potential contamination from the birds to the live hang area employees. Chlorine levels in the water immersion chillers, as reported on the company logs, were within the USDA requirement of 20-50 ppm. A health hazard from Campylobacter infection exists in this plant. Efforts to reduce Campylobacter contamination in the plant, particularly in the receiving/live hang area, should be strengthened. Such efforts should include improved sanitation and the use of other engineering controls, including redirecting airflow from the ducts in the live hang area away from the live birds. Training and compliance with hand hygiene and PPE use should also be improved.
Region-3; Bacteria; Bacterial-infections; Poultry; Poultry-industry; Poultry-workers; Clinical-diagnosis; Infection-control; Engineering-controls; Administration; Control-methods; Gastrointestinal-system; Gastrointestinal-system-disorders; Food-processing-industry; Food-processing-workers; Animal-products-workers; Animals; Infectious-diseases; Ventilation; Ventilation-systems; Air-flow; Personal-protective-equipment; Sanitation; Employee-exposure; Employee-health; Food-handlers; Food-processing-workers; Author Keywords: Poultry processing; Campylobacter; campylobacteriosis; infection; poultry processing; diarrhea; gastrointestinal; Hispanic workforce
Publication Date
Document Type
Field Studies; Hazard Evaluation and Technical Assistance
Fiscal Year
NTIS Accession No.
NTIS Price
Identifying No.
HETA-2011-0058-3157; B05102012
NIOSH Division
SIC Code
Source Name
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Page last reviewed: September 4, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division