This summer, as with every summer, children will be visiting fairs, zoos, theme parks or other child-oriented places such as petting zoos. If you arm yourself with some facts and err on the side of caution, they should be safe from the worries of contracting E. coli and similar pathogenic diseases.
Not only do children become vulnerable to infection when touching animals, they can then spread the infection to others, since bacteria can be passed from person to person.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recommendations to help keep this summer a safe and happy one:
• Clean hands after visiting petting zoos or touching objects animals have been in contact with. Does the petting zoo have washrooms or sinks nearby or hand sanitizing areas at the exit of the petting area? Hand sanitizers can be rubbed on hands to destroy germs. Tote-along-sized containers of hand sanitizers are readily available at supermarkets and other stores.
• Always wash hands before touching food. Do not bring food or beverages into areas where there is direct contact with animals.
• Keep children away from animals’ food and water dishes. If you are visiting an indoor area with animals, there should be adequate ventilation.
• Keep toys, pacifiers, sippy cups, baby bottles and the like out of the petting zoo area. Avoid thumb-sucking or otherwise putting hands into mouths until they are sanitized.
• Soiled animal bedding, as well as manure droppings, should be removed immediately from the petting zoo area. If you observe these conditions, inform one of the petting zoo workers.
• Keep a close eye on children and discourage touching objects that the animals have been in contact with such as toys, brushes or feed dishes.