A pathogen is a biological agent that causes disease or illness.  The disease can occur in animals, humans, or crops.  The four most common types of pathogens are: viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites.  Pathogens that are of animal origin but that can be transmitted to humans are termed "zoonotic" and include prions, viruses, bacteria, and helminths (worms). 

    Manure from livestock and poultry contain a variety of pathogens, but only a few pose a known or potential threat to humans.  Some of the more common ones that can impact humans include:

    • Bacteria:  E. coli O157:H7, Salmonella, Campylobacter, Listeria, Clostridium
    • Parasites: Giardia, Cryptosporidium
    • Viruses:  Rotavirus, hepatitis E virus, influenza A (avian influenza virus), adenoviruses

    Pathogen Survival

    Pathogen survival can range from days to years depending on the pathogen and the environmental conditions.  Manure can be a safe haven for pathogens as they have access to nutrients as well as protection from UV radiation, dessication, and temperature extremes.  Pathogen survival in water depends upon the water quality and the temperature.  

    Pathogen Reduction

    • Contaminated water and manure can spread the pathogen to other animals and/or humans.  Washing hands, and keeping areas clean is a good practice. For some especially nasty diseases (e.g., HPAI), extreme measures such as isolating your flock may be needed to keep your livestock safe. 
    • Composting of manure is very effective at controlling many pathogens.  Most pathogens are killed when the temperature reaches 131F or higher.  Turning and two heat cycles is recommended to ensure that any pathogens on the outside of the windrow or compost pile are being treated. 
    • Chemical treatments such as chlorine, ozone, UV light and pasteurization can also be used to kill pathogens.

    Additional Information

    Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI)

    Pathogens in Agriculture