Potential risk factors for zoonotic disease transmission among Mongolian herder households caring for horses and camels

Alexandra Sack, Ulziimaa Daramragchaa, Maitsetseg Chuluunbaatar, Battsetseg Gonchigoo, Gregory C. Gray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Mongolia has more than ten times as many livestock as people. Herders are dependent on their livestock for their livelihood, and seasonal movement is driven by the livestock’s grazing needs. The daily, seasonal interactions between Mongolian herders and their livestock put herders at risk for several zoonotic diseases. The goals of this pilot study were to describe potential risk factors for zoonotic disease transmission and note how they differed for herder families between provinces (aimags). As part of a larger study, a household survey was administered to 131 households in Arkhangai, Uvurkhangai, and Umnugobi provinces aimags during 2016 and 2017. The study was limited due to its self-reported survey data and its convenience sample design. We did not capture specific disease data. All households cared for either or both horses (Equus ferus caballus) and Bactrian camels (Camelus bactrianus). All households had a cell phone and access to a power source, primarily solar panels (93.1%). Families reported spending on average 3.9 h a day with their horses or camels. As all five of the most prevalent zoonotic pathogens in Mongolia have horses as reservoirs, and three of the five may also reservoir in Bactrian camels, herder families with horses or camels potentially experience daily risks from zoonotic diseases. Our pilot study data demonstrated that zoonotic disease transmission could occur through a number of ways, such as directly from contact with livestock or manure or from contaminated food, milk, or water. Sixty-four percent of herder households reported using dried manure for fuel. Unprocessed river water was often the primary source (52.7%) of drinking water, which is potentially contaminated with manure-borne pathogens. Fuel and water sources varied by herder household location. A unifying finding was the ubiquity of cellphones in all surveyed herder households, providing a potentially efficient method for public health communication.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Bactrian camels
  • Horses
  • Household survey
  • Mongolia
  • Zoonoses

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology


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