petting zoo safetyEaster is usually associated with bunnies and chicks, and outdoor events usually have petting zoos for children to enjoy. However, Easter events across the Tampa Bay area are either closing up or cancelling appearances by petting zoos this year because of an E. coli scare that has put more than a dozen people, mostly children, in area hospitals.
Mike Kilgore of the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center told ABC Action News he isn’t taking any chances. His group decided, because of publicity, that it would be better to err on the side of caution.
Meanwhile, the Florida Department of Health is investigating 15 reported cases of E. coli infection or the more serious hemolytic uremic syndrome, HUS, including one reported case in Collier County. Health officials aren’t sure the animals are making people sick, but it’s the one thing all 15 victims have in common. Health experts and zoo officials are warning parents to be careful.
The public is advised to contact their family doctors and the health department if they have symptoms, said Deb Millsap, spokeswoman for the Collier County Health Department. Symptoms of HUS are bloody diarrhea and a red pinpoint freckle rash. To avoid infection, health department officials recommend frequent hand washing, especially after contact with domestic or farm animals, and not eating undercooked meat.