Engineering, administrative controls to reduce poultry plant infections
Government researchers say they found a disproportionate number of workers with gastrointestinal infection among those who had worked the least amount of time.
"Those findings indicate that for poultry workers the highest risk for work-related Campylobacter infection is during the first weeks of work, after which the workers develop immunity that may be protective against future symptomatic infection," according to an article on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
Investigators from the CDC and the Virginia Department of Health responded to a request for a health hazard evaluation by plant managers at a Virginia poultry processing facility.
A Campylobacter infection is characterized by diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, or vomiting without another reason listed such as nausea related to pregnancy or migraine headaches.
"Campylobacter infection, or campylobacteriosis, affects an estimated 2.4 million persons each year and is most often associated with sporadic illness rather than outbreaks," the research said. "Transmission typically occurs through consumption of undercooked poultry or handling of raw poultry."
Twenty-nine cases of the infection were diagnosed at the plant between 2008 and 2011. The researchers surmised the cases identified were likely an underestimation of the true numbers, possibly because workers were unwilling to report illness due to the plant's lack of paid sick leave and difficulties accessing medical care.
Nearly all the affected employees had worked at the plant for less than one month. Additionally, those affected mainly worked as live hangers, where they are responsible for lifting live chickens from the supply conveyer. The area has a known high potential for contamination with the virus, the investigators said.
All but three of the infected workers lived at a state-operated diversion center, a 16- to 20-week residential work assignment program operated by the Virginia Department of Corrections.
To mitigate the incidents of infection, the investigators suggested:
- Improved sanitation.
- Ventilation system modifications.
- Installation of hands-free soap dispensers and waste receptacles.
They also suggested improved employee training and compliance with plant policies related to hand hygiene and the use of personal protective equipment, especially among temporary employees.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
February 25, 2013
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