The goal of this study was to compare and contrast the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and the practice of handwashing among participants of four studies assessing poultry and swine farms in the midwestern United States and in Thailand. This largely descriptive exercise was designed to assess and compare the frequency of these protective practices among the study populations. There were a total of 1113 surveys analyzed across the four studies. The respondents included workers in direct contact with animals as well as flock owners and veterinarians tending to farms. Handwashing was the most common practice observed among all participants with 42% "always" and 35% "sometimes" washing their hands after contact with the animals. This practice was least common among Minnesota swine workers. Even Thai poultry farmers, who demonstrated the lowest overall PPE use, reported a higher frequency of handwashing. Mask use during animal farming activities ("always" or "sometimes") was least commonly practiced, ranging from 1% in Thailand to 26% among backyard poultry farmers in Minnesota. Minnesota poultry and swine farmers had similar frequencies of mask (26%) and glove use (51% and 49%). All other comparisons differed significantly across the four sites (p-values <0.05). The use of PPE in animal farming differed by study location and is likely related to prevalent norms in the respective regions. Overall, the use of PPE did not appear to be influenced by the particular animal (poultry or swine) being farmed. These findings may prove useful to regulating bodies and farm owners in formulating policy or planning strategies for improving personal hygiene practices in animal farming and preparing for influenza and other potential zoonotic disease outbreaks.
Keywords: animal agriculture; handwashing; influenza; personal protective equipment; poultry; swine.