Combined Infection Control Interventions Protect Essential Food Workers from Occupational Exposures to SARS-CoV-2 in the Agricultural Environment

D. Kane Cooper, Julia S. Sobolik, Jovana Kovacevic, Channah M. Rock, Elizabeth T. Sajewski, Jodie L. Guest, Ben A. Lopman, Lee Ann Jaykus, Juan S. Leon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Essential food workers experience elevated risks of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection due to prolonged occupational exposures in food production and processing areas, shared transportation (car or bus), and employerprovided shared housing. Our goal was to quantify the daily cumulative risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection for healthy susceptible produce workers and to evaluate the relative reduction in risk attributable to food industry interventions and vaccination. We simulated daily SARSCoV- 2 exposures of indoor and outdoor produce workers through six linked quantitative microbial risk assessment (QMRA) model scenarios. For each scenario, the infectious viral dose emitted by a symptomatic worker was calculated across aerosol, droplet, and fomitemediated transmission pathways. Standard industry interventions (2-m physical distancing, handwashing, surface disinfection, universal masking, ventilation) were simulated to assess relative risk reductions from baseline risk (no interventions, 1-m distance). Implementation of industry interventions reduced an indoor worker's relative infection risk by 98.0% (0.020; 95% uncertainty interval [UI], 0.005 to 0.104) from baseline risk (1.00; 95% UI, 0.995 to 1.00) and an outdoor worker's relative infection risk by 94.5% (0.027; 95% UI, 0.013 to 0.055) from baseline risk (0.487; 95% UI, 0.257 to 0.825). Integrating these interventions with twodose mRNA vaccinations (86 to 99% efficacy), representing a worker's protective immunity to infection, reduced the relative infection risk from baseline for indoor workers by 99.9% (0.001; 95% UI, 0.0002 to 0.005) and outdoor workers by 99.6% (0.002; 95% UI, 0.0003 to 0.005). Consistent implementation of combined industry interventions, paired with vaccination, effectively mitigates the elevated risks from occupationally acquired SARS-CoV-2 infection faced by produce workers. IMPORTANCE This is the first study to estimate the daily risk of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection across a variety of indoor and outdoor environmental settings relevant to food workers (e.g., shared transportation [car or bus], enclosed produce processing facility and accompanying breakroom, outdoor produce harvesting field, shared housing facility) through a linked quantitative microbial risk assessment framework. Our model has demonstrated that the elevated daily SARS-CoV-2 infection risk experienced by indoor and outdoor produce workers can be reduced below 1% when vaccinations (optimal vaccine efficacy, 86 to 99%) are implemented with recommended infection control strategies (e.g., handwashing, surface disinfection, universal masking, physical distancing, and increased ventilation). Our novel findings provide scenario-specific infection risk estimates that can be utilized by food industry managers to target high-risk scenarios with effective infection mitigation strategies, which was informed through more realistic and context-driven modeling estimates of the infection risk faced by essential food workers daily. Bundled interventions, particularly if they include vaccination, yield significant reductions (.99%) in daily SARS-CoV-2 infection risk for essential food workers in enclosed and open-air environments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalApplied and environmental microbiology
Volume89
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2023

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • nonpharmaceutical interventions (NPIs)
  • produce industry worker
  • quantitative microbial risk assessment (QMRA)
  • vaccinations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Food Science
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Ecology

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'Combined Infection Control Interventions Protect Essential Food Workers from Occupational Exposures to SARS-CoV-2 in the Agricultural Environment'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this