Potential Zoonoses Associated with Swine

ZOONOTIC CONCERN

The intent of this Resource Page is to describe the most common zoonotic agents seen in swine and the safe work practices suggested to mitigate the exposure to these pathogens.

This page provides information about potential zoonotic exposure while working with swine or their products (e.g. fecal sample). The infectious agents listed here are not all inclusive, but are the most common zoonotic agents likely to be present in domestic swine. The safe work practices are provided as suggestions for staff and researchers who work with animals, in animal facilities, or with animal products.

Zoonotic Pathogens

  1. Gastrointestinal Infection
    • Organisms: Salmonella spp., Escherichia coli, Campylobacter spp., Yersinia enterocolitica, Cryptosporidium parvum, Giardia intestinalis, Balantidium coli.
    • Clinical Signs:
      • Animals – Diarrhea
      • Humans – Diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain.
    • Transmission: Fecal-oral.
  2. Dermatophytosis (Ringworm)
    • Organism: Microsporum nanum, Microsporum canis, Trichophyton mentagrophytes and T. verrucosum
      • Clinical Signs:
        • Animals – Crusty, dark, hairless patches; common on the skin around the head and neck; thorax, flank, behind the ears, on the legs.
        • Humans – Local itching, reddish skin, and hairlessness at the point of contact.
      • Transmission: Direct contact with skin lesions of infected animal. Can also be contracted via contaminated equipment and environmental objects (e.g. pen boards).
  3. Leptospirosis
    • Organism: Leptospira spp.
    • Clinical Signs:
      • Animals – Asymptomatic to decreased weight gain, anorexia, abortion, fever, diarrhea, and generalized neurological signs.
      • Humans – Flu-like symptoms (fever, chills, headache, muscleache, vomiting); liver and kidney failure.
    • Transmission: Ingestion, direct abraded skin, or mucous membrane contact with contaminated water, urine, aborted fetus, or vaginal discharge from infected animals; aerosolization can occur.
  4. Swine influenza
    • Organism: Influenza virus
      • Clinical Signs:
        • Animals – Sudden onset of fever, depression, coughing (barking), discharge from the nose or eyes, sneezing, difficulty breathing, anorexia.
        • Humans – Similar to seasonal influenza (fever, lethargy, lack of appetite, coughing, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea).
      • Transmission: Aerosolization or direct exposure to respiratory secretions from infected animals.

NOTE: Other zoonotic pathogens (e.g., Rabies, Hepatitis-E, Streptococcus suis, Erysipelas rhusiopathiae, Brucella suis, and Trichuris suis) may occur in outdoor herds or those acquired from non-commercial sources. Most research swine at Cornell are produced within a closed colony and are housed indoors; therefore, these pathogens are uncommon.

Safe Work Practices

  1. Good Personal Hygiene
    • Wash hands after working with animals or animal products and when leaving animal facilities.
    • Do not eat, drink, or use tobacco products in animal facilities.
    • Keep hands away from your mouth, nose, and eyes.
  2. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
    • Use proper PPE for work setting as appropriate (e.g. coverall, facemask, boot covers). Maintain dedicated protective clothing and footwear while working with animals or in animal facilities. Do not wear protective clothing outside of animal facility.
    • Wear disposable gloves during procedures that increase the likelihood of exposure to zoonotic agents. Also wear disposable gloves for handling sick animals (i.e. animals showing clinical signs such as diarrhea or hair loss), or contaminated surfaces and / or equipment.
    • Use disinfecting boot dips as applicable.
  3. Animal Care
    • Isolate sick or infected animals when possible.
    • Handle and care for sick or infected animals last.
  4. Cleaning and Disinfection
    • Maintain clean, dry, and uncluttered animal areas and workspace.
    • Disinfect laboratory work surfaces after each use and after any spills when working with animal products. Use only disinfectants approved by facility management.
    • Dispose of deceased animals, animal products, items contaminated by animal products, contaminated bedding, and laboratory waste in a facility approved manner.
  5. Proper Sharps Handling
    • Work only with one uncapped needle at a time and immediately dispose of after use in sharps receptacle.
    • Avoid recapping needles whenever possible.
  6. Medical Attention
    • Contact the Cornell Health Occupational Medicine service at 607-255-6960 for medical evaluation if you suspect any exposure, or if you develop any symptoms associated with infection with zoonotic agents (e.g., fever, malaise, diarrhea, abdominal pain). Alternatively, see your own personal health care provider if any injury or potential exposure to a zoonotic agent occurs.
    • Notify the principal investigator or supervisor and complete the Environmental Health and Safety and Risk Management Injury / Illness / Exposure Report.
  7. Allergies
    • Handling of bedding and animal products may aggravate allergies.
    • Proper use of PPE reduces, but does not eliminate, the risk of developing allergies. Refer to the Allergy Prevention Fact Sheet for further information.

References

  1. Information on Swine / Variant Influenza - CDC
  2. Diseases From Farm Animals - CDC 
  3. Cornell Health