Animals are great hosts for spreading certain germs that lead to zoonotic enteric diseases – diseases that you may be familiar with affecting the digestive system. Carrie Klumb, an epidemiologist with the Minnesota Department of Health, covered best practices for keeping you, your team, and visitors safe when around animals on a recent AgriSafe Learning Lab webinar.
Most species are natural carriers of E. coli, salmonella, Campylobacter, and Cryptosporidium. These germs shed into animal feces, spread in the environment, and eventually can make it to someone’s hand that would then touch their mouth and cause a zoonotic enteric disease.
Farms have a responsibility to lower the risk for their employees and any visitors on the farm. As far as people working or living on the farm, yearly training on best practices such as wearing gloves when handling animals or manure and washing hands is normally sufficient. There should be a designated area away from animals for eating. If someone does get sick, they should be allowed time off to get better.
Agritourism can be simply defined as having visitors on your farm. You may be held liable if a visitor was at your farm and then got sick and hospitalized from a zoonotic enteric disease, particularly if you are profiting from agritourism. Klumb talked about the importance of working with your insurance company to make sure you have sufficient liability coverage for visitors on your farm. She sourced that the National Children’s Center has resources available at safeagritourism.com for insurance coverage and other safe practices.
Easy best practices to follow that help reduce risk of infection are:
- Keep soap and paper towels consistently stocked, remind staff to wash their hands, and make handwashing accessible after any animal contact.
- Always eat first and then visit the animals.
- Put up simple signage to remind people that there is a risk when touching animals and to wash their hands.
- Encourage no food or drink, strollers, smoking, tobacco, or e-cigarettes in animal areas. Minimize anything that could increase the potential of hand-to-mouth activities around animals.
- Keep the floor areas clean around animals.
The webinar also dove deeper into best practices around animals that are useful if your business is in agritourism. For farms that aren’t monetizing agritourism but may host school tours or give other tours, it is still important to be mindful of the best practices above to keep visitors healthy.