28 Sep 2008

Meat workers may be exposed to contagious disease

11:54 am on 28 September 2008

A Massey University study has found that meat workers could be exposed to a contagious disease when handling sheep carcasses.

The disease, leptospirosis, begins with flu-like symptoms and has potential to progress to meningitis, liver damage and renal failure at its worst, if undetected.

The study found that 13 in every 1000 sheep slaughtered at a North Island abattoir were potentially passing the infection on to meat workers.

Professor Cord Heuer says the infection has claimed at least one life in New Zealand. However, he says that was an isolated incident and the disease is not a typical killer.

While protective clothing limits some risk for meat workers, Professor Heuer says widespread vaccination of sheep is needed.