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Two North Carolina poultry workers develop rare skin condition

Those who work in the poultry processing industry here in North Carolina may be at risk of developing repetitive stress injuries, according to a recent study. The Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, discovered a connection between poultry workers and a rare skin condition called pachydermodactyly, which is characterized by persistently swollen knuckles.

Researchers who were conducting a study on skin disease in at least 500 immigrant poultry workers discovered two cases of the uncommon skin condition.

One of the male workers was a chicken hanger, and the other a chicken catcher. Chicken catchers pick up five to seven chickens in each hand for transportation and chicken hangers put the birds on conveyer belts. Both jobs are repetitive and require quick movements for many hours.

Researchers concluded that repeated workplace injuries led to itching, burning and pain, in addition to joint swelling. The two workers with this skin condition said the condition affected their social lives. They also complained of shoulder and wrist pain.

One of the study's authors, a dermatologist, explained that the condition is a rare one that occurs in younger males, typically those whose skin undergoes trauma during their jobs.

The two painful cases discovered are exceptions to the norm, as the illness does not usually manifest painfully. The dermatologist said workers can contract the illness even if they wear gloves. She suggested rotating jobs might both ease symptoms for workers and prevent further cases.

According to a spokesperson for the National Chicken Council and the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association, figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show workplace illnesses and injuries in poultry processing facility workers saw a 73 percent decrease between 1994 and 2010.

Workers who sustain repetitive stress injuries often have trouble recovering workers' compensation benefits for medical treatment and lost wages for time spent away from work. It can often be beneficial to work with an experienced workers' compensation attorney when filing or appealing a workers' compensation claim.

Source: Fox News, "Hand deformities turn up in poultry workers, report finds," May 25, 2012

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