Two States Investigating Outbreak of Psittacosis at Poultry Plants

According to CDC, the latest data suggest the outbreak is only affecting people who work at the identified poultry slaughter plants, but public health officials are investigating whether other people exposed to chickens that were shipped to the affected plants got sick.

The Virginia and Georgia departments of health are investigating a multistate outbreak of psittacosis occurring at two poultry slaughter plants owned by a single corporation, and CDC and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are assisting with their investigation, CDC reported Sept. 19. CDC reported it is working with USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service to identify other, similar plants.

Chlamydia psittaci, the type of bacteria that causes psittacosis, was detected by a laboratory test in 10 people. Additional illnesses in workers at the two plants have been identified but haven't been confirmed by a laboratory. No deaths have been reported, according to CDC's release. It says the number of cases is likely to change, and investigators are still working to understand why the outbreak occurred.

Both plants suspended operations for cleaning: On Sept. 8, the Virginia plant did, and it reopened Sept. 18. The Georgia plant suspended operations on Sept. 15 and reopened Sept. 19.

According to CDC, the latest data suggest the outbreak is only affecting people who work at the identified poultry slaughter plants, but public health officials are investigating whether other people exposed to chickens, such as farmers and truck drivers, that were shipped to the affected plants got sick. "At this time, investigators do not believe people working outside of this industry or consumers are at risk," the release said.

The most common way someone gets infected with the bacteria that cause psittacosis is by breathing in dust containing dried secretions (e.g., droppings, respiratory) from infected birds. CDC noted it is rare for psittacosis to spread from person to person, and in this outbreak, infection among family members who are not workers at the affected plants has not been reported.

Psittacosis usually causes mild illness in people, with its most common symptoms including fever and chills, headache, muscle aches, and a dry cough. But it can cause pneumonia and, in rare cases, death.

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