Pregnant women need to stay away from sheep, and avoid contact
with drugs used on animals.
The major causes of abortions in sheep can also cause miscarriages in women.
*Toxoplasmosis is caused by a tiny parasite that can infect sheep, cats, and other warm-blooded animals, including humans. The infection can lead to abortion or severe birth defects. The parasite multiplies very readily in cats and is shed in large quantities in the feces. Pregnant women should not change cat litter boxes. Children's sandboxes should be covered to prevent cats from defecating in them.
*Coccidiosis (Q-fever) is a disease of sheep and goats. Milk, placental and birth fluids may contain the infection, which can cause flu-like symptoms and even death. Animals may be tested to see if they have the organism.
*Chlamydia is a common cause of abortion in sheep. It is also common in other animals and birds. Handwashing after working with sheep is extremely important. Chlamydia can be transferred to humans by eating contaminated food.
*Salmonella bacteria are found everywhere; it causes diarrhea, fever, and cramps which last from 4-7 days, in some cases needing hospitalization and antibiotics to prevent the spread of infection throughout the body.
*Pregnant women should also avoid exposure to certain drugs that are used to treat diseases in dogs, cats, horses, and cows and to drugs that are used to induce abortion in animals, or to synchronize their estrus. These drugs include steroids, prostglandins, estramate.
Western Producer, March/1999