Zoonotic Influenza And Occupational Risk Factors In Agricultural Workers

Kendall P. Myers, The University of Iowa

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Abstract

Three main research products are reported in this dissertation. This research focused on estimation of the seroprevalence rates in agricultural workers with exposure to pigs and poultry, and determination of risk factors for infection.

Chapter 2, "Are swine workers in the United States at increased risk of infection with zoonotic influenza virus?", reports controlled, cross-sectional seroprevalence studies among farmers, meat processing workers, veterinarians, and control subjects. Using a hemagglutination inhibition assay against six influenza A virus isolates, all 3 exposed study groups demonstrated markedly elevated titers against the H1N1 and H1N2 swine influenza virus isolates, compared with control subjects.

Chapter 3, "Infection due to 3 avian influenza subtypes in United States veterinarians", describes a controlled, cross-sectional seroprevalence study that examined veterinarians in the United States for evidence of previous avian influenza virus infection. Using a microneutralization assay against 9 influenza A virus strains, veterinarians exposed to birds demonstrated statistically significant elevated titers against the H5, H6, and H7 avian influenza virus isolates compared with control subjects.

In chapter 4, "Cases of swine influenza in humans: a review of the literature", all known human cases of swine influenza are compiled and analyzed. Fifty cases of apparent zoonotic swine influenza virus infection, including 37 civilians and 13 military personnel, were identified, with a case-fatality rate of 14% (7 of 50 persons). Most civilian subjects (61%) reported exposure to swine.

These studies provide strong evidence that transmission of zoonotic influenza likely occurs much more frequently than previously thought, and that individuals with occupational exposure to pigs and birds are at elevated risk for acquiring zoonotic influenza infections.

Agricultural workers should be included in pandemic influenza planning, should receive information and training on how to use personal protective equipment, and should be offered human influenza vaccine to reduce the risk of creating viral reassortants. In the event of a pandemic, workers should be considered for antiviral medications and pandemic strain vaccines.