Zoonoses: What are they, and how can you stay safe?

Zoonoses are diseases that pass from animals to humans. Symptoms of zoonoses can be mild gastro-intestinal or flu-like illnesses - or can progress to serious illnesses with long term health effects.

Sometimes, they can be fatal.

Examples of zoonotic diseases include Q fever, Anthrax, avian influenza (bird flu), Brucellosis, Hendra virus, Leptospirosis and Psittacosis (Parrot Fever).

As farmers, we have daily close contact with animals and animal products. There are a number of steps that farm workers can take to minimise the risk posed by zoonotic diseases.

The best way to protect yourself is to install mechanical ventilation (with separate intake and exhaustion vents) and/or dust suppression systems to stop the circulation of contaminated air.

If you can’t do that, there are simpler steps that farm workers can take to minimise the risk.

Consider these 7 prevention measures:

  1. Vaccinate workers and horses against transmissible zoonotic diseases and regularly worm your working dogs and household pets.
  2. Keep you animals healthy. If one looks ill – separate it immediately from other animals.
  3. Avoid direct contact with animal body fluids by using machinery to clear animal waste products and using crushes to limit physical contact with animals
  4. Regularly dampen down work areas to reduce the risk of contaminated dust and other particles becoming airborne
  5. Use appropriate personal protective equipment, such as waterproof gloves and boots, overalls, masks, and safety glasses or face shields. Make sure they are disposed of correctly after use
  6. Make sure there are appropriate washing and changing facilities near high-risk areas
  7. Wash hands thoroughly after handling animals and before eating, drinking and smoking. Also cover any cuts or rashes with a waterproof dressing.

Zoonoses are serious illnesses and you must notify SafeWork NSW if a worker contracts one of these diseases.
For more information on specific zoonotic diseases, take a look at Safe Work NSW’s information sheet.