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Int Arch Occup Environ Health. 2010 Jun;83(5):543-52. doi: 10.1007/s00420-009-0478-6. Epub 2009 Nov 10.

Mortality in the Baltimore union poultry cohort: non-malignant diseases.

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Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, UNT Health Science Center, Fort Worth, TX, USA.



Workers in poultry plants have high exposure to a variety of transmissible agents present in poultry and their products. Subjects in the general population are also exposed. It is not known whether many of these agents cause disease in humans. If they do, we reason this would be readily evident in a highly exposed group such as poultry workers. We report here on mortality from non-malignant diseases in a cohort of poultry workers.


Mortality was compared with that of the US general population, and with that of a comparison group from the same union. Risk was estimated by standardized mortality ratio, proportional mortality ratio, and directly standardized risk ratio.


Poultry workers as a group had an overall excess of deaths from diabetes, anterior horn disease, and hypertensive disease, and a deficit of deaths from intracerebral hemorrhage. Deaths from zoonotic bacterial diseases, helminthiasis, myasthenia gravis, schizophrenia, other diseases of the spinal cord, diseases of the esophagus and peritonitis were non-significantly elevated overall by all analyses, and significantly so in particular race/sex subgroups.


Poultry workers may have excess occurrence of disease affecting several organs and systems, probably originating from widespread infection with a variety of microorganisms. The results for neurologic diseases could well represent important clues to the etiology of these diseases in humans. The small numbers of deaths involved in some cases limit interpretation.

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