Epidemiology and Infection

Q fever and other zoonoses

B. anthracis in a wool-processing factory: seroprevalence and occupational risk

E. KISSLINGa1a2 c1, P. WATTIAUa3, B. CHINAa1, M. PONCINa4, D. FRETINa3, Y. PIRENNEa5 and G. HANQUETa1a6

a1 Scientific Institute of Public Health, Brussels, Belgium

a2 European Programme for Intervention Epidemiology Training (EPIET), European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, Stockholm, Sweden

a3 Veterinary & Agrochemical Research Center, Brussels, Belgium

a4 Occupational doctor, Provikmo, Belgium

a5 Health Inspectorate, French Community, Ltiège, Belgium

a6 Consultant epidemiologist (independent), Brussels, Belgium

SUMMARY

In a Belgian wool-processing factory, living anthrax spores were found in raw goat hair and air dust, but confirmed anthrax cases had never been reported. Anthrax vaccines are not licensed nor recommended in Belgium. We conducted a B. anthracis seroprevalence study to investigate risk factors associated with positive serology and advise on protective measures. Overall 12·1% (8/66) employees were seropositive; 30% of persons processing raw goat hair and 20% of persons sorting raw goat hair were seropositive compared to 3% in less exposed jobs [adjusted prevalence ratio (aPR) 44·4, P=0·001; aPR 14·5, P=0·016, respectively). The number of masks used per day was protective (aPR 0·3, P=0·015). Results suggest a dose–response association for those processing raw goat hair. Host-related factors probably played a role as antibody response varied from person to person within an exposure group. Workers exposed to raw goat hair should be offered higher protection against anthrax and have access to anthrax vaccines.

(Accepted July 12 2011)

(Online publication August 11 2011)

Correspondence:

c1 Author for correspondence: E. Kissling, 33 Chestnut Avenue, Esher, Surrey KT10 8JF, UK. (Email: e.kissling@epiconcept.fr)

Metrics