Thursday, January 17, 2008

Pig's Brains and Diseases

After the Minnesota slaughterhouse illness was reported, the CDC looked into slaughtering practices in 25 large pork processing plants in 13 states, and found only two other plants -- one in Indiana, the other in Nebraska -- that used compressed air to remove pigs' brains.

Minnesota health officials said the pork plants in all three states have voluntarily stopped the practice.

The Indiana workers' symptoms included changes in sensation and weakness in their limbs, Russell said. Those symptoms are similar to a mysterious cluster of neurological symptoms reported last month among 12 workers at a pork slaughterhouse in Austin, Minn.

Two workers at an Indiana plant that used the compressed air technique to remove pigs' brains became ill with symptoms similar to those experienced by the workers in Minnesota, according to Dr. Jim Howell, an epidemiologist with the Indiana Department of Health.

He declined to discuss the workers' conditions or say where they are employed, citing patient privacy laws.

In the Minnesota case, health officials initially suspected the workers were exposed to something in the brain tissue that triggered the illness. Officials are continuing to investigate, but so far they haven't identified any viruses or bacteria that could be causing the disease. They've also ruled out chemical toxins.



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