Diseases from goats and livestock
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 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 the dog type rarely spreads to people.
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 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. Most animals recover completely within a month, but may get reinfected. Orf lesions may resemble foot-and-mouth disease, which is a very serious animal disease that has not occurred in the U.S. since 1929. Due to concern about foot and mouth disease, the WA State Department of Agriculture investigates possible cases of orf in goats and sheep to be sure that the animal does not have foot-and-mouth disease (see link below).
People can get infected via direct contact with an infected animal or by touching contaminated equipment such as halters, buckets or fences in the animal's environment. The virus penetrates through small lesions in the skin. People most often get infections on their fingers where blisters form in 3-7 days. The sores may be painful and can last for two months. A lab test to diagnose the infection is available at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A healthcare provider would need to contact the local health department for information about testing. There is no specific treatment and people do not infect other people. Activities that may put people at risk of infection include bottle feeding or shearing sheep or goats, petting infected animals, handling contaminated equipment, and being bitten by an infected animal.
- Frequently Asked Questions About Sore Mouth Infection (Orf Virus), CDC
- Foot-and-mouth disease: A Foreign threat to Washington livestock, WA State Dept. of Agriculture
- 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, the elderly, and persons with weakened immune systems.