It’s springtime in Wyoming, which means branding season will soon be in full swing. Livestock producers know there are many risks associated with working livestock and with branding, but most do not consider gastrointestinal illness as one of these risks. But during the last 20 years, the Wyoming Department of Health has received numerous reports of campylobacteriosis among state residents due to the potential association between cattle handling, especially branding-related activities, and infection of the Campylobacter jejuni bacteria.
Food Borne Illnesses
Most commonly campylobacteriosis is a food borne illness caused by eating undercooked or improperly handled raw poultry, drinking unpasteurized milk, handling infected household pets, drinking contaminated water, or traveling abroad. This bacterial infection is the second leading cause of gastroenteritis in Wyoming and the most common cause of the illness in the United States. The symptoms of the illness include bloody diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, chills, muscle aches, fatigue and fever. Symptoms can occur anywhere from two to five days after exposure and usually last about one week, but can last up to several weeks.
The main means of exposure to the bacteria when handling livestock, especially during branding, is due to the significant contact with manure, which is often in the form of scours. Although contact with manure is unavoidable, there are several precautions that can be taken to lesson the risk of exposure. These precautions include:
- Washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water after branding and before eating, drinking, chewing tobacco or gum, smoking, applying chapstick or touching your face.
- Washing your hands thoroughly before handling or preparing any raw food- such as making hamburger patties to grill, making sandwiches etc.
- Avoiding all hand-to-mouth or glove-to-mouth contact during branding.
Although campylobacteriosis is usually considered a food borne illness, those of us living in rural areas and working with livestock must remember that exposure to this illness can come through other routes. If you do experience any of the above-mentioned symptoms, please seek medical advice at once.