July 24, 2002

When we talk about safety around livestock we generally think of avoiding unnecessary injury to animals or humans.  But safe livestock practices also should include good hygiene and sanitation.

“Sanitary practices are a good idea for working with any kind of animal, but are especially important when we’re talking about cattle, sheep or goats,” said Patty Scharko, University of Kentucky Extension veterinarian.  This is because these animals are associated with a few diseases, such as sore mouth and brucellosis, that have the potential of being transferred to humans, she said.

Another such disease is called coxiellosis, more commonly known as Q Fever.

“Q Fever is one of those diseases that’s been around for a long time and is pretty much seen worldwide, including the United States,” Scharko said.  “It may cause sporadic abortions in animals. Although it’s rarely fatal in humans it can make someone feel pretty ill.”

Humans acquire the disease by accidentally inhaling bacteria-like elements associated with the presence of cattle, sheep or goats.  People most often contract the disease in areas where infected animals or animal products are handled, such as slaughter houses, rendering plants, or dairy production facilities.

Symptoms of Q Fever are similar to flu, with fever, chills, headaches and coughing common.  People working with livestock should routinely take steps to avoid problems.

“We advise farmers and others working with cattle, sheep or goats to wear protective clothing and shoe coverings,” said Monty Chappell, Extension livestock specialist.  “Other recommendations include wearing gloves when delivering newborns, handling milk, or coming in contact with animal fluids or byproducts. Regularly cleaning up with disinfectants around handling facilities or laboratories is also an excellent idea.”

Chappell said anyone who experiences the flu-like symptoms associated with Q Fever should seek medical attention from their local doctor or health care facility.


Patty Scharko 859-253-0571