Staying Safe Around Farm Animals

For many, interacting with live farm animals, only happens at petting zoos, farm visits, or fairs. For others, working with farm animals has been a lifestyle and tradition. No matter how you interact with them, you should be aware of the many zoonotic diseases, how they can affect you, and how to prevent them. That’s why it is so important that you are aware of policies and follow biosecurity measures to decrease the risk of acquiring any bacteria/diseases from live animals.

Here are a few of the most common zoonotic diseases

Disease Effect on Animals Effect on Humans
Contagious ecthyma (also known as: orf, sore mouth, or scabby mouth) An infectious disease of goats and sheep that is caused by a virus. Goats are often more severely affected than sheep. Infected animals typically have sores that scab over on their skin. People can become infected after touching an animal’s sores or any piece of equipment that has touched an infected animal’s sores. People usually get sores on their hands. These sores may be painful and last up to 2 months. They usually heal without scarring.
Cryptosporidium A parasitic disease that is transmitted through contaminated food or water from an infected human or animal, particularly their contaminated stool. The risk is greatest from contact with young calves, especially calves with diarrhea; however, infected animals may appear healthy or have only mild diarrhea In people, Cryptosporidium can cause profuse, watery diarrhea with cramping, abdominal pain, and nausea. Illness in people usually gets better on its own and lasts only 2-4 days.


Rabies A fatal neurologic disease. Animals and people are most commonly infected through bites from rabid animals. Infected animals may have a variety of signs, but most often have a sudden behavioral change and followed by paralysis. Rabies can be prevented in some animals by vaccination. The first symptoms in people can start days to months after exposure and include weakness, fever, and headache. Within a few days after those first symptoms appear, symptoms will get worse and include confusion, anxiety, unusual behavior, and delirium. If you are bitten by an animal that is acting strange, contact a health care provider right away. Once symptoms appear, it is almost always too late for a person to be treated.
Ringworm A condition caused by a fungus that can infect skin, hair, and nails of both people and animals. Ringworm is spread from animals to people through direct contact with an infected animal’s skin or hair. Affected animals typically have small areas of hair loss around their ears, face or legs with scaly or crusty skin. Ringworm infections in people can appear on almost any area of the body. These infections are usually itchy. Redness, scaling, cracking of the skin, or a ring-shaped rash may occur.



To decrease the risk getting any of the diseases listed above (among many others), follow these preventative measures:

  • Wash your hands immediately after contact; Avoid touching your face or personal items (i.e. cellphone) until you have washed your hands
  • Cover any wounds or cuts
  • Do not eat anywhere near where the animals are located
  • Do not climb into the cages/pens of the animals
  • Supervise children at all times; Do not let children 5 years of age or younger handle or touch chicks, ducklings, or live poultry without supervision
  • Clean shoes when going from one event/farm to another to prevent spread of bacteria to the new location (including your home)


If you are bitten, scratched, or kicked by a farm animal:

  • Wash wounds with soap and warm water immediately
  • Tell someone in charge of the event (if at the fair, tell the barn superintendent)

*If you are bitten and suspect that the animal may have rabies: Follow the steps above as well as leave your contact information and consult your doctor immediately.


Seek medical attention if:

  • The animal appears sick or is acting unusual.
  • The wound or injury is serious (uncontrolled bleeding, unable to move, extreme pain, muscle or bone is showing, or the bite is over a joint).
  • The wound or site of injury becomes red, painful, warm, or swollen. (Especially if the person bitten is 5 years of age or younger, elderly, pregnant, or has a weak immune system.)
  • It has been more than 5 years since your last tetanus shot.


Fair Season is right around the corner! So please keep this information in mind when you are interacting with animals. Remember, we do not want to ruin your fun, we just want you to be safe.

Altamont Fair
August 14 – 19 • Altamont, NY
(518) 861-6671 
Saratoga County Fair
July 24 – 29 • Ballston Spa, NY
(518) 885-9701 
Columbia County Fair
August 29 – September 3 • Chatham, NY
(518) 392-2121 
Schaghticoke Fair
August 29 – September 3 • Schaghticoke, NY
(518) 753-4411 
Greene County Youth Fair
July 26 – 29 • Cairo, NY
(518) 860-0863 
Warren County 4-H Fair
August 11 • Warrensburg, NY
(518) 668-4881 
Washington County Fair
August 20 – 26 • Greenwich, NY
(518) 692-2464 
New York State Fair

August 22-September 3 • Syracuse, NY









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