Author(s): Coles FB, Schuchat A, Hibbs JR, Kondracki SF, Salkin IF,
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Abstract In the spring of 1988, the largest documented US outbreak of cutaneous sporotrichosis to date occurred, with 84 cases among persons from 15 states who were exposed to Wisconsin-grown sphagnum moss used in packing evergreen tree seedlings. In New York State, 13 cases occurred among 109 forestry workers. All 13 cases occurred among 76 workers who had handled evergreen seedlings and moss (attack rate = 17\%). For those exposed to evergreens and moss, the risk of infection increased as worktime exposure to moss increased (attack rates: less than 10 hours, 8\%; 10-19 hours, 12\%; greater than 19 hours, 33\%). While environmental samples of moss from the Wisconsin supplier were negative, Sporothrix schenckii was cultured from multiple samples of the sphagnum moss obtained from one of six Pennsylvania tree nurseries, representing the nursery that was identified as the source for 79 (94\%) of the moss-associated cases. Differences in tree-handling procedures at this nursery--including the use of 1- to 3-year-old moss to pack seedlings, use of a pond water source to wet the moss, use of an organic polymer gel on the seedling root system, and underground storage and longer storage of moss-packed seedlings before shipping--suggested possible explanations for the association. Efforts to prevent sporotrichosis among persons handling evergreen seedlings should include the use of alternate types of packing material (e.g., cedar wood chips or shredded paper) and protective clothing such as gloves and long-sleeved shirts.
This article was published in Am J Epidemiol
and referenced in Journal of Clinical & Experimental Dermatology Research