Pilot: Transmission of Microorganisms in Dairy Farms

Principal Investigator: Peter Rabinowitz, MD, MPH
Associate Professor, Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences
University of Washington

PNASH Pilot Project 2013-2015

Dairy farming involves close contact between workers and animals as well as shared environmental exposures on the farm. These conditions may provide a mechanism for zoonosis: the transmission of microbes between humans, animals, and the environment. There is evidence that such microbial transmission can lead to infection in both workers and cows when zoonotic pathogens are exchanged. In contrast, some evidence suggests that microbial exposures on farms may have beneficial aspects to human health. To explore the degree of microbial sharing taking place on dairy farms, we performed a survey of Staphylococcal species in a sample of dairy workers, cows, and their shared dairy farm environments in a “One Health” model.

This study developed methods for simultaneously assessing the health of humans, of animals, and of the environment within animal agriculture settings using an interdisciplinary human health including industrial hygiene and veterinary health field team approach. Wide dissemination of the project results and the educational brochure (in English and Spanish) by our Dairy industry partners throughout Washington State, including at agricultural safety and health events reaching producers, workers and healthcare providers. The brochure was pretested with both English and Spanish-speaking dairy workers in Washington State prior to its publication and dissemination. This project has led to a new 5-year NIOSH-funded study at PNASH, entitled “Healthy Dairy Worker Study."

Partners and Advisories
Washington State Dairy Federation

Dairy Products Commission

WSU Dairy Agricultural Extension Service

Brochure: Dairy Farming - Hygiene and Health

The Health Dairy Worker Study