SAO PAULO, April 30 (Reuters) - Health authorities in Brazil's southernmost state of Rio Grande do Sul said the new coronavirus has spread to nine local meat processing plants, according to a government epidemiology report sent to Reuters on Thursday.
The report tracked COVID-19 cases between March 20 and April 27 in seven towns of Rio Grande do Sul state, including Lajeado and Passo Fundo, where large meatpackers BRF SA and JBS SA have operations.
The report identified the towns in which nine meat plants with confirmed cases are located, but does not name the companies or specific plants affected by the outbreak.
Some 16,345 people working at those plants have potentially been exposed, the report said.
In recent days, the new coronavirus outbreak has shown signs of accelerating in Brazil with a record jump in confirmed cases on Thursday to 78,162, with 5,466 deaths reported in the country.
There have been 124 confirmed cases of the disease among workers in those meat facilities, and at least one person died from COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus, local health authorities said.
There have been also six deaths of persons related to the meat plant workers, which authorities called "secondary" COVID-19 deaths.
BRF, which has already registered several cases of the illness in Rio Grande do Sul state, did not have an immediate comment.
Last week, BRF signed an agreement with labor prosecutors whereby it commits to improving measures to protect workers nationwide.
JBS did not have an immediate comment.
Last week JBS' Passo Fundo chicken plant, which employs around 2,600 people, was shut down as part of an investigation into an outbreak of COVID-19 cases in the facility. (Reporting by Ana Mano; editing by Jonathan Oatis)