Department of Public Health Sciences

Respiratory infections in agriculture

McCurdy, S.A.

Am J Respir and Crit Care Medicine. 1998. 158(Supplement):S46-S52.

The agricultural work environment holds the potential for exposure to many agents that may cause respiratory disease (897,898). However, relatively few epidemiologic data are available addressing pulmonary infections in the context of the agricultural work environment. Agricultural workers may fall victim to the normal range of respiratory infections experienced by persons from the general population, yet there are many infectious conditions for which agricultural work represents a clear risk factor because of unique exposures. Infection may result when agricultural workers are exposed to infectious secretions, aerosols, and fomites in the course of their work. The infectious agent may be human pathogens from other workers or zoonotic agents transmissible to humans. Exposure may lead to asymptomatic infection, as seroepidemiologic studies in farmers show for Brucella, Hantavirus, Chlamydia psittaci, Coxiella bumetii, and other agents (896). Exposure and infection may also lead to frank disease, with significant health and economic costs to individuals and society. The purpose of this section is to review the current state of knowledge regarding infectious respiratory conditions as they relate to the agricultural work environment. It is beyond the scope of this article to include all agriculturally related infectious diseases that may have a pulmonary component. Consideration was therefore limited to conditions for which respiratory effects are an important part of the clinical syndrome (Table 5.1). In addition, several of the most important or topical conditions for which epidemiologic data addressing agricultural work as a risk factor exist are discussed below.

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