Predictors of occupational skin disease among seafood processing workers in the Western Cape

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

Occupational skin disease is common in seafood processing workers. While previous studies have reported an increased prevalence of symptoms (as high as 50%) and protein contact dermatitis (3-11%), the prevalence and patterns of type IV allergic contact dermatitis have not been well characterised in epidemiological studies. The aim of this study was to identify host and environmental risk factors for symptoms, clinical eczema, positive patch tests, possible and probable allergic contact dermatitis in seafood processing workers. A cross-sectional study of 594 seafood processing workers was conducted in two seafood processing plants in the Western Cape Province of South Africa. The study used an interviewer administered questionnaire to collect information on demographic characteristics, occupational history, work practices and skin symptoms in the preceding 12 months. A subgroup of symptomatic workers (n=120) were investigated further and compared to a group of randomly selected asymptomatic workers (n=134). Both groups underwent clinical examination by experienced dermatologists and patch testing with a battery of standard allergens (adapted British Contact Dermatitis Group Standard Series) supplemented by various seafood products and additives used in the factory. Data of skin prick tests to common aeroallergens and seafood products, and serum omega-3 fatty acid (Eicosopentaenoic acid) collected in a previously reported study were also used.

Includes bibliographical references.