Zoonoses: an occupational hazard for livestock workers and a public health concern for rural communities

J Agric Saf Health. 2010 Jul;16(3):161-79. doi: 10.13031/2013.32041.


Farming employs one of the most diverse work forces, while at the same time it is one of the most dangerous occupations in the U.S. Individuals associated with the livestock industry face an additional risk: zoonotic diseases. In an effort to improve the overall well-being of the farming community, this review addresses zoonoses as a health concern for the farming community. The discussion of agriculturally acquired zoonoses includes infections naturally transmitted from vertebrate animals to man (e.g., rabies) and those common to animals and man (e.g., Salmonella). Special consideration is given to identifying individuals potentially at higher risk for developing disease. Case reports and epidemiological studies are reviewed from published veterinary and human-health literature to illustrate exposure scenarios and associated health outcomes. Additionally, key livestock zoonoses in the U.S. are summarized, and an overview of prevention and control strategies is provided. Findings show that livestock can transmit many zoonoses directly and indirectly, and human health can be significantly impacted, but the number of people adversely impacted is largely unknown. This review concludes that more education about zoonosis transmission and prevention is needed, and healthcare providers serving rural communities are a critical link in providing this information. In order for healthcare providers to address the educational gap, we recommend greater collaboration with veterinary specialists schooled in population medicine, zoonosis prevention and control, and animal production.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Agricultural Workers' Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Animals
  • Child
  • Disease Outbreaks
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Public Health
  • Rabies / epidemiology
  • Rabies / transmission
  • Risk Factors
  • Rural Population / statistics & numerical data*
  • Salmonella Infections / epidemiology
  • Salmonella Infections, Animal / transmission
  • Sheep Diseases / transmission
  • United States
  • Zoonoses / epidemiology*