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Occupational Health: Farm Worker Health and Safety

People who live or work on farms with animals should be aware that even healthy farm animals (cattle, goats, sheep, pics, chickens, turkeys) can pass on diseases (such as avian flu, E. coli, and Campylobacter) to humans through their manure/droppings.

Children, pregnant women, the elderly and any person with a weakened immune system may be at an increased risk of getting sick or becoming severely ill.

Even people who do not have direct contact with animals or manure/droppings have become infected when other people in their home inadvertently carried the organisms into the home or vehicle on their hands, clothes or shoes.

The most common organisms that can be passed from livestock manure to people include: Salmonella, Cryptosporidium, Campylobacter, E. coli and Giardia.

Cow milking facility with stanchions

Tips for people who live on a farm or work with poultry or livestock

Image of a chicken

Always wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after you are done touching or working with livestock, handling equipment used on animals, or coming into contact with anything in the area where animals are present, including soiled surfaces and droppings.

  • This is especially important to do before preparing or consuming food or drink for yourself or others.
  • Adults should supervise hand washing for young children.

Use separate shoes, work gloves, and clothing when working with livestock.

  • Keep these items outside of your home, or remove or change immediately when arriving home, to prevent contamination of the home environment.
  • Change or remove soiled clothing and boots before getting into vehicles.
  • Wash hands after taking off any clothes and shoes you wore while working with livestock.

Supervise small children during any animal encounter and discourage behaviors that can increase their risk of illness.

  • Young children and people with weakened immune systems should avoid direct contact with calves, especially those with diarrhea (scours).
  • Young children and people with weakened immune systems should avoid direct contact with poultry and freshly laid eggs when avian flu is in your area.
  • Do not allow toys, pacifiers, spill-proof cups, baby bottles, strollers, or similar items in livestock or poultry areas.

Do not eat or drink in the areas where livestock are present.

Do not drink unpasteurized (raw) milk.

Work with your veterinarian to keep your livestock and poultry healthy.

Practice good biosecurity to help prevent the spread of diseases among people, your animals, and wildlife.

If you do become ill with flu-like symptoms, diarrhea lasting more than a few days, or a high fever, notify your health care provider and tell them that you work with livestock.

Last revised January 11, 2023