What Do the Experts Say? Frequently Asked Questions Related to Pathogens and Livestock or Poultry Production

A panel of national experts on pathogen issue in animal manure was assembled in 2006 by the Livestock and Poultry Environmental Learning Center to share their expertise. The Learning Center is indebted to Chip Simmons, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill School of Public Health; Thomas Harter, University of California, Davis; Jeanette Thurston-Enriquez, USDA Agricultural Research Service; Sheridan Kidd Haack, US Geological Survey; Gary K. Felton, University of Maryland; Dan Shelton, USDA Agricultural Research Service; Rob Atwill, University of California, Davis; Jane Frankenburger, Purdue University; Laurel Staley, US Environmental Protection Agency.

Pathogen Fundamentals

  • What is a pathogen? A zoonotic pathogen? FAQ #26419 .
  • What is the difference between bacteria and viruses? Do both bacteria and viruses from livestock represent a human health risk? FAQ #26425
  • How long will animal-derived (zoonotic) pathogens persist in groundwater and surface water? FAQ #26430
  • Regarding E. coli, is there data stating the levels that confined feeding operations are currently contributing E. coli? FAQ #27123
  • Do you have any statistics relating directly to horses? Are they more or less likely to be implicated in pathogen outbreaks in humans? FAQ #27124
  • How many cases involving human sickness related to pathogen contamination of surface water from agricultural livestock sources have been documented? FAQ #26420
  • What risks to my health (CAFO inspector) exist during a CAFO inspection from exposure to pathogens? FAQ #26427
  • If pathogens are a significant health concern, why don’t farmers and farm workers get sick from these pathogens more often? FAQ #26437
  • What are the health effect from trucks hauling poultry litter; specifically, from the dust and material coming off the trucks? FAQ #27126
  • What is the relationship between odor and possible pathogens? Can people get sick if they are downwind from wastewater irrigation sites? FAQ #27127

Surrounding a sinkhole or other high risk geology with a conservation buffer is an important pathogen best management practice (BMP).
Source: Jane Frankenberger, Purdue University.


Pathogen BMPs

  • What BMPs are effective for minimizing pathogen transport from manure land application sites to surface and groundwater? FAQ #26422
  • How does a poultry facility appropriately handle flock mortalities from avian flu? FAQ #27168
  • If I control the manure and runoff from my animal housing and manure storage, have I eliminated my farm’s risk associated with pathogens? FAQ #27169
  • Do confined cattle have increased risk of shedding E. coli 0157:H7 due to high grain content of their diet? FAQ #27170 and FAQ #27176
  • Should we be concerned about E. coli O157:H7 in manure compost? FAQ #27171
  • By what factor does composting manure reduce the pathogens present? FAQ #27172
  • Please recommend pathogen elimination or reduction technologies for animal manure, (especially manure from CAFOs) to eliminate pathogens as a regulatory requirement? FAQ #27173
  • If indicators for pathogenic organisms are identified in irrigation water used for food crops, like spinach, should these waters be treated before application, and if treatment should be done what methods would be effective? FAQ #27177
  • In the upper Midwest, conventional systems are simple pit or pond storage structures, not fitting the technical standard of “anaerobic lagoon”. What are the attenuation rates for those structures? FAQ #27178
  • With the recent focus on pathogen transport between livestock operations and ready to eat crops I’m interested to know if there’s any research that could recommend a buffer size between livestock operations and edible crop fields? FAQ #27135

Pathogen Transport

  • Do pathogens move in the environment similar to other potential pollutants with which I am more familiar? Nitrates? Phosphorus? Sediment? FAQ #26423
  • What livestock pathogens are most likely found in surface waters that are of concern to humans? FAQ #26434
  • If pathogens are found in a watershed, are livestock likely to be the only or primary cause of those pathogens? FAQ #27136
  • Can pathogens enter the groundwater via normal land application of manure? Via manure storage? FAQ #27137
  • It was reported that in the E. coli O157:H7 spinach contamination in California that the E. coli was actually taken up through the roots of spinach plants and sequestered in the leaves. Is this possible? FAQ #27140
  • Can you give an example of survival times for pathogens? FAQ #27151
  • How far (feet/miles) downstream are pathogens detected from where they enter the stream? FAQ #27154
  • Is there a relationship between ambient temperature and risk to pathogen exposure in manure application? FAQ #27155

Limiting animal access to surface water, especially young animals is critical to reducing pathogen risk
Source: Rob Atwill, University of California-Davis

Related FAQs

  • Regarding pathogen contribution to watersheds from confined feeding operations, is E. coli the best pathogen to measure to determine contamination of a watershed from livestock manure? FAQ 26433
  • How do I know if I am the cause of a pathogen problem? What do I monitor? How do I know if I have solved my pathogen problem? FAQ 26432
  • What pathogens should I test for to determine if manure has contaminated my well? FAQ 26431
  • Is there a meaningful method to analyze surface water samples for Crypto. and Giardia? FAQ 26429

Page Managers: Rick Koelsch, University of Nebraska, and Janice Ward, US Geological Survey