SPOTLIGHT: Living, working on farms increases risk of gastrointestinal illness

SPOTLIGHT: Living, working on farms increases risk of gastrointestinal illness

New study reveals greater levels of infection in people working with livestock

Minnesotans who live or work on a farm with livestock and poultry are 8 times more likely to be diagnosed with a gastrointestinal illness than other Minnesotans, according to recently published findings from the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and the Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center (UMASH). The study gathered data from 2012 through 2016 and aimed to understand the frequency and burden of zoonoses (e.g. germs shared between animals and people) in agricultural workers, their families, and others exposed to agricultural settings in Minnesota.

“Our study is the first to collect data from ill people in Minnesota in order to develop more accurate estimates of gastrointestinal disease among those who have livestock exposure,”

– Carrie Klumb, Epidemiologist at MDH.

Livestock are a well-known source of zoonotic diseases. In particular, we looked at Campylobacter, Salmonella, Cryptosporidium, and E. Coli infections among Minnesotans. These germs cause gastrointestinal illnesses some of which may be severe. This study found that 17% of people were hospitalized, 43% had bloody stools, and 17 people developed acute kidney failure or a condition called Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS). People can become infected through direct animal contact or contact with animal environments. This is a significant health issue for farm families and agriculture workers,” said Klumb.

Basic prevention measures can reduce the risk of getting one of these infections. If you live or work on a farm:

  • Wear dedicated work clothing and remove your work boots when you come in the house.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water before you eat, drink, smoke or use chewing tobacco, and before you go home for the day.
  • Do not eat or drink around the animals. (i.e. Keep the barn out of the employee breakroom).

To access the entire article and additional resources related to zoonotic disease information and prevention, visit the UMASH Zoonotic Disease webpage. For additional information, visit the MDH Intestinal Illness Acquired From Animals.


Cambridge University Press
Animal agriculture exposures among Minnesota residents with zoonotic enteric infections, 2012–2016