Packinghouse, poultry, and other food processing workers can be exposed to a variety of infectious diseases.
What Types of Biological Hazards to Look For
The following are diseases of most concern:
Brucellosis is caused by a bacterium and is transmitted by the handling of infected cattle or swine. Workers can be exposed to the bacterium by breathing in airborne blood or tissue from infected animals, getting splashed in the eye with infected material, or through cuts on hands or other parts of the body. The workers most at risk are those who work on the kill floor. Symptoms of brucellosis include constant or recurring fever, headaches, weakness, joint pain, night sweats and loss of appetite. Antibiotics are used to treat the disease.
Methods for Reducing and Controlling Exposure to Brucellosis
Limit the number of infected cattle or swine that are slaughtered. This is done through testing the hogs or cattle at the farm to be sure they don’t have the disease, and ensuring that infected cattle don’t reach the kill floor.
Psittacosis is a bacterial disease carried by infected poultry. Poultry workers are exposed by breathing in infectious sprays of poultry blood. Poultry workers most at risk are those who work in the kill and pick areas and in evisceration. Symptoms include a form of pneumonia with fever, chills, headaches, body aches and cough. Other symptoms may include insomnia, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
Methods for Reducing and Controlling Exposure to Psittacosis
Workers should wear gloves and respirators in areas of potential exposure. The identification of diseased birds should take place before they reach the poultry plant.
Erysipeloid is a disease seen among poultry and fish handlers where puncture wounds from sharp bones and fin spines are frequent. Erysipeloid is a bacterial infection, and causes redness, irritation and burning around the site of infection.
Methods for Reducing and Controlling Exposure to Erysipeloid
Protective gloves should be worn by poultry and fish workers to protect against puncture wounds. Scratches, cuts and puncture wounds that do occur should be treated promptly [treatment should include washing with soap, water and antiseptic and covered] to reduce the likelihood of infection from occurring.
In addition to the key hazards described above, workers in poultry, meat or food processing are exposed to many more hazards every day. New hazards loom on the horizon due to new technology, new quotas, or faster line speeds, and old hazards can grow and change.