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Public Health - Seattle & King County

Diseases from goats and livestock

Goat

Goat ownership is legal in Seattle and in many parts of King County, subject to certain restrictions. It is important to understand legal issues, disease concerns, goat husbandry, milking, and sanitation before you get a goat as a pet or for food production.

Goats may be kept for milk production, either to consume fresh or for making cheese, yogurt or other dairy products. Public Health recommends that all milk, including goat's milk, be pasteurized to kill harmful bacteria prior to use. Drinking raw (unpasteurized) milk, or eating products made from raw milk can be dangerous because raw milk can be contaminated with harmful bacteria. Diarrhea and stomach pain (which may be severe) can result from infections with Campylobacter, Salmonella, or E. coli O157:H7 bacteria in milk. Severe kidney damage from infection with E. coli O157:H7 (called hemolytic uremic syndrome, or HUS) may result, especially in young children. Another risk is miscarriage, stillbirth or severe illness or death in the newborn when a pregnant woman is infected with Listeria bacteria, which can be present in unpasteurized milk.


  • Brucellosis
    Brucellosis is a bacterial infection that can affect goats and other livestock such as sheep and cows and wild ruminants such as deer, elk and bison. Brucellosis causes abortion or stillbirth in animals. Brucellosis is rare in livestock in the U.S. but common in many other countries. People most often get infected from direct contact with the placenta and other discharges from animals that are giving birth. Infected animals can shed the Brucella bacteria in milk and in vaginal fluids after abortion or birth. People can also get infected from consuming unpasteurized milk and other dairy products from infected animals. Symptoms in people vary, but serious disease can occur. Dogs can also get brucellosis but this type is rarely spreads to people.

  • Campylobacteriosis
    Campylobacteriosis is an infection of the intestines caused by a bacteria called Campylobacter. The bacteria is commonly found in the feces of infected animals and in food products contaminated with the bacteria during processing or preparation. Raw or undercooked chicken is one of the most common sources of human infection.

  • Escherichia coli O157:H7 (E. coli) infection
    Escherichia coli (E. coli) include a large group of bacteria that live in the guts of animals and people. Most are harmless but some can cause disease. One particular strain called E. coli O157:H7 can cause serious disease in people. The E. coli O157:H7 are shed in the stool of infected animals and people. People can get infected when they eat food or drink water or milk contaminated by the bacteria. Infection with E. coli O157:H7 can cause diarrhea and in some cases a severe complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). HUS damages the kidneys and blood vessels and is more common in young children and the elderly.

  • Listeriosis
    Listeriosis is a rare but serious disease of humans caused by the germ Listeria monocytogenes; it is usually acquired by eating or drinking foods contaminated with the germ. Unpasteurized milk and cold cuts are the foods most likely to transmit listeriosis. Infected cattle and goats can also spread the infection to humans when the infection causes them to abort and the placental remains are heavily contaminated. Listeria is especially hazardous to pregnant women.

  • Orf (sore mouth infection, contagious ecthyma)
    Orf is a common disease worldwide in goats and sheep. It is also called "sore mouth" or "scabby mouth." It is caused by a virus (parapoxvirus) that causes blisters to form on the lips, muzzle, and in the mouth. Later the blisters become crusty scabs. It is especially common in young animals and may cause them to have difficulty nursing or feeding.

  • Q Fever
    Q fever is a disease caused by a type of bacterium named Coxiella burnetii. It is primarily a disease of cattle, sheep, and goats although other livestock and pets can also get Q Fever. The disease in people ranges from asymptomatic to severe. Most animals have no symptoms but infection may cause abortion in sheep and goats. Infection in people occurs by inhaling dust contaminated with dried placental material, birth fluids, as well as urine and feces from infected animals. The risk of infection is greatest close to the source of bacteria, but there have been cases of infection even several miles away. Accidentally inhaling contaminated milk is a less common way getting the infection.
  • Salmonellosis - Goats and Livestock
    Salmonellosis is a bacterial infection of the intestines caused by a group of bacteria called Salmonella. The bacteria are shed in the stool of infected animals and humans. Infection can happen when a person eats food or drinks water or milk that has been contaminated with Salmonella bacteria. Infection with Salmonella can cause serious disease especially in children younger than 5 years of age and persons with weakened immune systems.