Producers must take preventative steps to protect themselves and their employees
A current outbreak of multi-drug resistant Salmonella has been associated with dairy calves. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the outbreak has affected 54 people in 15 states, and around one third of the affected required hospitalization. At the moment, no cases have been reported in Michigan, but situations like this remind us that we should always keep zoonotic diseases in mind.
Cattle do not always show clinical signs of the diseases, despite being carriers. For example, a healthy cow can have E. coli in her digestive system and be shedding E. coli in its feces. That same E. coli can cause severe symptoms if a person is infected with it.
Contracting a zoonotic disease not only has consequences on the health and wellbeing of the person affected, it also impacts the normal operation of a dairy farm. In times when the work force is very limited, producers cannot afford to have a valuable worker off the farm due to a preventable disease.
Michigan State University Extension recommends the following preventive measures of zoonotic disease:
- Cow health: Good health and disease control reduces or eliminates the risk of infection.
- Education: Make sure that the dairy personnel, especially new employees without livestock experience, know what zoonotic diseases are and how to prevent them. You should work with your veterinarian or Michigan State University Extension educator to provide the education for your workers.
- Use of personal protective equipment: Dairy personal should wear coveralls or dedicated work clothes, boots and gloves. If possible, work clothing should be washed and kept at the farm. In some cases, mask and googles might be necessary.
- Hygiene: Wash hands after working with animals or with equipment that is in contact with animals, do not eat or drink while working with animals and store work clothes and boots outside the house.
- Unpasteurized milk: Do not allow employees to drink unpasteurized milk or colostrum from the farm. Unpasteurized milk consumption could potentially cause infections with tuberculosis, salmonella, brucellosis or E. coli.
These preventive measures may not eliminate the risk of zoonotic disease completely, but they help to control it and decrease it.
Efforts need to be made to prevent zoonotic diseases from impairing your employees and their families. If you have not address this issue, now would be a good time to start implementing this advice. With the help of your veterinarian or Michigan State University Extension educator, you can develop a strategy to reduce the risk of zoonotic disease on your farm.
— Paola Bacigalupo Sanguesa, Michigan State University Extension