Tuberculosis risk in funeral home employees

Robyn R.M. Gershon, David Vlahov, Jose A. Escamilla-Cejudo, Mohamed Badawi, Melissa McDiarmid, Christine Karkashian, Martha Grimes, George W. Comstock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

In order to estimate the risk of tuberculosis infection among employees in the funeral service industry, we conducted a risk-assessment study of a convenience sample of funeral home employees. Study participants completed a risk-assessment questionnaire and underwent tuberculin skin testing. Of 864 employees tested, 101 (11.7%) had a reactive tuberculin skin test. Reactivity to the tuberculin skin test was significantly associated with job category; funeral home employees with a present or past history of embalming deceased- human remains were twice as likely to be reactive as were non-embalming personnel (14.9% versus 7.2%, P < 0.01). Reactivity was also associated with age, gender, race, past history of close contact with a person diagnosed with tuberculosis, and work history. After controlling for age and other factors, tuberculin reactivity was found to be associated in embalming personnel with the number of years spent performing embalmings (≤20), and, in non-embalming personnel, with a history of close contact with infected individuals. Based on these results, it is recommended that funeral home employees who routinely embalm cadavers undergo annual tuberculin skin testing, receive initial training on tuberculosis prevention, and wear respiratory protection when preparing known tuberculosis cases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)497-503
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine
Volume40
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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