Occupational risk associated with Toscana virus infection in Tuscany, Italy

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Abstract

Background

Sandfly fever virus serotype Toscana is endemic in Mediterranean countries and is a widespread public health problem as it may be associated with acute neurological diseases such as aseptic meningitis.

Aim

To assess whether Toscana virus infection is associated with occupational exposure.

Methods

During the summer of 2001, a total of 678 blood samples were taken from healthy subjects residing in Tuscany (349 agricultural and forestry workers and 329 control subjects living in the same areas). Information on age, type of job and lifestyle was collected in a questionnaire, and sera were analysed using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay for Toscana virus-specific antibodies.

Results

Seropositivity to antibodies to Toscana virus was 30% in the control group and 23% in the agricultural and forestry workers (P < 0.05). Questionnaire responses suggested that, although the agricultural and forestry workers had a potentially greater continuous exposure to sandfly fever virus (outdoor activities, rural residence and at-risk lifestyle), these risk factors did not add significant information about greater susceptibility to disease.

Conclusion

Our findings indicate a need for better understanding of the best preventive measures to avoid the risk related to sandfly bites, especially for people who live or work in areas at risk.

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