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Austin Pork Plant Workers Contract Mysterious Illness After Slaughtering Pigs

Thursday, July 03, 2008 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: pork, health news, Natural News

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(NaturalNews) A rare neurological disease has struck workers at a pork plant in Austin, Minnseota, sparking an investigation into what may have caused the outbreak.

Eleven employees at the Quality Pork Processors plant have contracted chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP) since last winter, suffering peripheral nervous system problems including muscle weakness, cramps, pain, tingling and stiffness.

"It started with a charley horse in my calf that wouldn't go away," said Susan Kruse, one of the first workers to be affected. "Then my hands and feet got sore and cold and numb. I had perfect health before." She must now use a walker to move around, is easily fatigued and is unable to lift heavy objects.

Kruse was a worker in the "day kill area," carving meat out of the heads of dead pigs. Her work site was right next to a compressed air hose that was installed shortly before the outbreak began. The hose was used to remove the brain material of slaughtered pigs.

CIDP is believed to result from an autoimmune response, in which the body's immune system attacks the myelin sheath that insulates the nerves of the peripheral nervous system. This leads to the wide variety of symptoms typical of the disease. But it is unknown what exactly triggers this immune response.

In the Quality Pork case, some health experts have speculated that the air compression hose may have exposed workers to pulverized blood and brain tissue, triggering the autoimmune reaction. But this hypothesis is still preliminary.

The Minnesota Department of Health has initiated an investigation into the cause of the outbreak at the pork plant, but anticipates that it will be months before it has any conclusions.

The outbreak was first noticed by occupational health nurses at the pork plant, who contacted local doctors when a large number of workers showed up with a strange suite of neurological symptoms. The nurses were connected with the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, where CIDP experts were able to identify the disease.

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