Q-fever, a rare infection caused by the Coxiella burnetii organism, has been confirmed in workers at the Scotbeef Meat Processing Company in Bridge of Allan.
A spokesman for Scotbeef said that most of the workers infected were employed in the butchery half of the complex. The spokesman also added that they are working with the outbreak control team to keep on top of it and that the plant is still operational and there is no danger to customers.
The outbreak is being investigated by NHS Forth Valley together with Health Protection Scotland and Stirling Council's environmental health team. NHS Forth Valley said that blood tests had confirmed the disease among meat workers at the Scotbeef meat processing company.
The organism which lives in farm animals such as sheep, cattle, and goats as well as wild animals and ticks is spread to humans by contact with animals or from drinking unpasteurised milk. The illness usually occurs two or three weeks after exposure to the organism with symptoms including fever, muscle pain, headache, fatigue, and dry cough and in some cases pneumonia. Although extremely rare, it can be passed on from one person to another up to half a mile through the air.
It is a self-limiting flu-like illness with no treatment required, but if symptoms persist or come back after recovery then specific antibiotics are needed to treat the infection.
Due to the risk of contracting Q-fever by air-borne spread within a half-mile radius of the plant, surveillance has been increased, and GPs in the area have been asked to notify NHS Forth Valley if any patient presents with a flu-like illness of this nature.