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Both manure and animal carcasses contain pathogens (disease-causing organisms) which can impact human health, other livestock, aquatic life, and wildlife when introduced into the environment. Several pathogenic organisms found in manure can infect humans.

Table 1. Some Diseases and Parasites Transmittable to Humans from Animal Manure
Disease Responsible Organism Symptoms
Anthrax Bacillus anthracis Skin sores, fever, chills, lethargy, headache, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, cough, nose/throat congestion, pneumonia, joint stiffness, joint pain
Brucellosis Brucella abortus, Brucella melitensis, Brucella suis Weakness, lethargy, fever, chills, sweating, headache
Colibaciliosis Escherichia coli (some serotypes) Diarrhea, abdominal gas
Coliform mastitis-metritis Escherichia coli (some serotypes) Diarrhea, abdominal gas
Erysipelas Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae Skin inflammation, rash, facial swelling, fever, chills, sweating, joint stiffness, muscle aches, headache, nausea, vomiting
Leptospirosis Leptospira Pomona Abdominal pain, muscle pain, vomiting, fever
Listeriosis Listeria monocytogenes Fever, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
Salmonellosis Salmonella species Abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, chills, fever, headache
Tetanus Clostridium tetani Violent muscle spasms, “lockjaw” spasms of jaw muscles, difficulty breathing
Tuberculosis Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Mycobacterium avium Cough, fatigue, fever, pain in chest, back, and/or kidneys
Q fever Coxiella burneti Fever, headache, muscle pains, joint pain, dry cough, chest pain, abdominal pain, jaundice
Foot and Mouth Virus Rash, sore throat, fever
Hog Cholera Virus  
New Castle Virus  
Psittacosis Virus Pneumonia
Coccidioidycosis Coccidioides immitus Cough, chest pain, fever, chills, sweating, headache, muscle stiffness, joint stiffness, rash wheezing
Histoplasmosis Histoplasma capsulatum Fever, chills, muscle ache, muscle stiffness, cough, rash, joint pain, join stiffness
Ringworm Various microsporum and trichophyton Itching, rash
Balantidiasis Balatidium coli  
Coccidiosis Eimeria species Diarrhea, abdominal gas
Cryptosporidiosis Cryptosporidium species Watery diarrhea, dehydration, weakness, abdominal cramping
Giardiasis Giardia lamblia Diarrhea, abdominal pain, abdominal gas, nausea, vomiting, headache, fever
Toxoplasmosis Toxoplasma species Headache, lethargy, seizures, reduced cognitive function
Ascariasis Ascaris lumbricoides Worms in stool or vomit, fever, cough, abdominal pain, bloody sputum, wheezing, skin rash, shortness of breath
Sarcocystiasis Sarcosystis species Fever, diarrhea, abdominal pain

References: USDA, 1992 (for diseases and responsible organisms). Symptom descriptions were obtained from various medical and public health service Internet Web sites. Pathogens in animal manure are a potential source of disease in humans and other animals. This list represents a sampling of diseases that may be transmittable to humans.

The treatment of public water supplies reduces the risk of infection via drinking water. However, protecting source water is the best way to ensure safe drinking water. Cryptosporidium parvum, a protozoan that can produce gastrointestinal illness, is a concern, since it is resistant to conventional treatment. Healthy people typically recover relatively quickly from such illnesses. However, they can be fatal in people with weakened immune systems such as the elderly and small children.

Runoff from fields where manure has been applied can be a source of pathogen contamination, particularly if a rainfall event occurs soon after application. The natural filtering and adsorption action of soils typically strands microorganisms in land-applied manure near the soil surface (Crane et al., 1980). This protects underlying groundwater, but increases the likelihood of runoff losses to surface waters. Depending on soil type and operating conditions, however, subsurface flows can be a mechanism for pathogen transport.

Soil type, manure application rate, and soil pH are dominating factors in bacteria survival (Dazzo et al., 1973; Ellis and McCalla, 1976; Morrison and Martin, 1977; Van Donsel et al., 1967). Experiments on land-applied poultry manure have indicated that the population of fecal organisms decreases rapidly as the manure is heated, dried, or exposed to sunlight on the soil surface (Crane et al., 1980).

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