With summer fairs and festivals just around the corner, the Allen County Department of Health wants to remind families to practice healthy handling at petting zoos and other animal exhibits.
“Fun summer activities like petting zoos are a great opportunity for positive interactions with animals if done safely,” said Dr. Deborah McMahan, Allen County Health Commissioner. “We just want to urge parents to be vigilant in taking precautions to keep their children healthy, especially when there is a potential risk of exposure to some dangerous diseases.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 100 outbreaks of illness in people linked to animals in settings like zoos, fairs, and educational farms were reported to public health officials from 2010-2015. Some of the most common harmful germs people get from animals are E. coli O157:H7, Cryptosporodium, and Salmonella infections. Children five years of age and younger, people with weakened immune systems, and adults over 65 years of age are more likely to get sick from the germs animals can carry and should take extra precautions at exhibits.
The CDC recommends the following to stay safe and healthy while interacting with animals at festivals, fairs and other exhibits commonly visited this time of year:
1. Wash your hands
• Find where the handwashing stations are located.
• Wash your hands right after touching animals or anything in the areas they live, roam, or eat.
• Wash your hands when you leave animal areas, even if you didn’t touch the animals; hands should still be washed if you wore gloves.
• Running water and soap are best. If they are not immediately available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60 percent alcohol, and wash your hands with soap and running water as soon as you can.
2. Keep food and animals separate
• Don’t eat or drink around animals, and keep food and drinks away from animal areas.
• Don’t share your food with the animals, even if you think the food is part of the animal’s regular diet.
3. Keep children safe around animals
• Always supervise children around animals.
• Children five years of age and younger should not have contact with reptiles, amphibians or live poultry, because these animals are more likely to make them sick.
• Leave items such as strollers, pacifiers, cups or toys outside the exhibit.
• Don’t let children put their thumbs, fingers or objects (like pacifiers) in their mouths when they’re around animals or in an animal area.
• Don’t let children sit or play on the ground in animal areas.
• Teach children to approach animals with caution and follow the rules. Do not let children put their fingers or objects near an animal’s mouth even if the animal seems friendly. Make sure to follow any rules provided on signs or verbally by the staff.