Occupational allergy to birds within the population of Polish bird keepers employed in zoo gardens

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Abstract

Objectives

To evaluate the risk factors for the development of occupational allergy to birds among Polish zoo garden keepers.

Methods

A total of 200 bird zookeepers employed in the Polish zoo gardens in KLódź, Warsaw, Gdańsk, Chorzów and Płock and exposed occupationally to bird allergens were examined using a questionnaire, skin prick tests (SPTs) to common allergens and bird allergens, spirometry and cytograms of nasal swab. The level of total IgE in serum and serum-specific IgE to parrot, canary, pigeon feathers and serum were also evaluated.

Results

Eight percent of bird zookeepers were sensitized to at least one of the bird allergens. The most frequent allergens yielding positive SPT results were D. farinae — 32 cases (16%), D. pteronyssinus — 30 cases (15%) and grass pollens (16.5%). In the studied group, allergen-specific IgE against bird allergens occurred with the following frequency: 87 (43.5%) against canary feathers and/or serum, 80 (40%) against parrot feathers and/or serum and 82 (41%) against pigeon feathers and/or serum. Occupational allergy was diagnosed in 39 (26.5%) cases, occupational rhinitis was present in 22 (15%) cases, occupational asthma in 20 (13.6%) subjects, occupational conjunctivitis in 18 (12.2%) cases, whereas occupational skin diseases in 11 (7.5%) cases. More eosinophils were found in nose swab cytograms among bird zookeepers with occupational airway allergy.

Conclusions

The findings indicate that occupational allergy to birds is an important health problem among zoo bird keepers in Poland.