August 19, 2022

Tips for ag worker health during avian influenza outbreak

Protective strategies for workers

GREENVILLE, Iowa — With the rise of avian influenza, it’s important for workers on poultry farms to wear the proper personal protective equipment.

“Best management practices would indicate using basic PPE such as gloves and protective eyewear, even when working with known healthy birds,” said Charlotte Halverson, clinical director of AgriSafe Network.

“Employers should develop specific work instructions and/or job/task hazard analyses to ensure procedures are followed consistently. We all need structure in our day to day work environment.”

Hand sanitizing equipment should be accessible around the farm.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends properly-fitted, unvented or indirectly vented safety goggles, disposable gloves, boots or boot covers, a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health-approved respirator, disposable, fluid-resistant coveralls, and disposable head or hair cover.

When avian influenza is identified, high levels of PPE are needed. Follow the course of action determined by the state public health officials, Halverson said.

“We know it is highly uncommon for humans to become infected with avian influenza,” she said. “That being said, the potential could be there. And we need to know the symptoms are that we should be looking for.”

Mild symptoms in humans include headache, mild cough, congestion/runny nose, low grade fever, sore throat and eye irritation.

More severe symptoms include fever over 100 degrees, vomiting and diarrhea, acute respiratory distress, pneumonia, severe conjunctivitis or encephalitis.

“These symptoms are similar to many other things we can contract, like common cold, influenza or COVID,” Halverson said.

“If you become sick, contact your local healthcare provider.”

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Erica Quinlan

Erica Quinlan

Field Editor