Staph infection hits Whirlpool

by The City Wire staff ( 12 views 

An outbreak of staph infection at Whirlpool’s Fort Smith plant is adding illness to economic injury.

Officials with Benton Harbor, Mich.-based Whirlpool Corp. confirmed Friday (Mar. 2) that an “several cases of Staph infections” were reported at the company’s Fort Smith refrigeration plant. Whirlpool officials said the local health department partially blamed the increase in area staph infections on “a growing use of health clubs and increase in tattooing.”

About 1,000 employees remain at the plant that is set to close in mid-2012.

Whirlpool announced Oct. 27 it would close the plant, resulting in the expected loss of 1,000 jobs. The refrigerator manufacturing plant, which employed around 4,600 as recent as early 2006, has been operated by Whirlpool more than 45 years.

The company sent this statement to the media: “Whirlpool learned of cases of staph infections in the Fort Smith area. We contacted the local health department which indicated they had seen an increase in these types of infections in the general population and attributed them in part to a growing use of health clubs and increase in tattooing. We were assured by the health department that the industrial cleaning product we use on a regular basis should be very effective. Regardless, we are electing to take added precautions by conducting additional cleaning over the weekend.  We shared the below information with our employees today.”

“Fort Smith Division Employees:
Recently, we had a medical facility inform us that they have seen several cases of Staph infections from Whirlpool employees.  We have reached out to the Department of Health and they have informed us that there has been an increase in these types of infections within the community.  We are following the Department of Health’s suggestions and are taking precautions throughout the plant to ensure common areas are cleaned and disinfected.  Cleaning products have been distributed to business to utilize for disinfecting their respective areas.  Additionally, we plan to procure a professional cleaning service to treat all the restrooms and high traffic areas over the weekend.  Handouts outlining personal precautions you can take will also be available from your supervisor.  Thank you in advance for your patience and cooperation.”

According to the Mayo Clinic, staph infections are caused by staphylococcus bacteria, “a type of germ commonly found on the skin or in the nose of even healthy individuals. Most of the time, these bacteria cause no problems or result in relatively minor skin infections.”

The Mayo info noted that such infections “can turn deadly if the bacteria invade deeper into your body, entering your bloodstream, joints, bones, lungs or heart.”