Don’t breathe the pig brains!

From yesterday's Washington Post:

A new disease has surfaced in 12 people among the 1,300 employees at
the factory run by Quality Pork Processors about 100 miles south of Minneapolis.

The ailment is characterized by sensations of burning, numbness and
weakness in the arms and legs. For most, this is unpleasant but not
disabling. For a few, however, the ailment has made walking difficult
and work impossible. The symptoms have slowly lessened in severity, but
in none of the sufferers has it disappeared completely.

While the illness is similar to some known conditions, it does not
match any exactly. Nor is the leading theory of its cause something
medical researchers have studied. That is because the illness appears
to be caused by inhaling microscopic flecks of pig brain.

Don't worry, though, chances are your job does not expose you to this risk.  The Times has a nicely detailed story, which includes:

A man whom doctors call the ?index case? ? the first patient they knew
about ? got sick in December 2006 and was hospitalized at the Mayo
Clinic for about two weeks. His job at Quality Pork was to extract the
brains from swine heads…

On Nov. 28, Dr. DeVries?s boss, Dr. Ruth Lynfield, the state
epidemiologist, toured the plant. She and the owner, Kelly Wadding,
paid special attention to the head table. Dr. Lynfield became
transfixed by one procedure in particular, called ?blowing brains.?

As each head reached the end of the table, a worker would insert a
metal hose into the foramen magnum, the opening that the spinal cord
passes through. High-pressure blasts of compressed air then turned the
brain into a slurry that squirted out through the same hole in the
skull, often spraying brain tissue around and splattering the hose
operator in the process.

Just remember that next to you want to complain about your job.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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