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Keywords:

  • Q fever;
  • Coxiella burnetii;
  • slaughterhouse;
  • migrant workers

Summary

Outbreaks of Q fever are rare in the UK. In 2006, the largest outbreak of Q fever in Scotland occurred at a co-located slaughterhouse and cutting plant with 110 cases. Preliminary investigations pointed to the sheep lairage being the potential source of exposure to the infective agent. A retrospective cohort study was carried out among workers along with environmental sampling to guide public health interventions. A total of 179 individuals were interviewed of whom 66 (37%) were migrant workers. Seventy-five (41.9%) were serologically confirmed cases. Passing through a walkway situated next to the sheep lairage, a nearby stores area, and being male were independently associated with being serologically positive for Q fever. The large proportion of migrant workers infected presented a significant logistical problem during outbreak investigation and follow up. The topic of vaccination against Q fever for slaughterhouse workers is contentious out with Australasia, but this outbreak highlights important occupational health issues.