The Times Democrat had an editorial today on the many theories why the current E. coli outbreaks in Florida have happened.
Possible explanations include the emergence of new strains of bacteria, and humans’ lowered resistance to disease because of increasing urbanization. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that this strain of E. coli – O157:H7 – is responsible for an average of 73,000 cases of infection and 61 deaths in the United States each year.
No matter what the theories, it is a fact that E. coli infection is a more common occurrence and a threat in human association with animals – which should prompt people to examine their own habits more than question the safety of animal exhibits.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stress the importance of something that nearly every person has heard thousands upon thousands of times in their lifetimes: washing your hands. Hand washing is one of the most important things you can do to keep from getting sick and from spreading germs to others. By frequently washing your hands, you wash away germs that you have picked up from other people, or from contaminated surfaces, or from animals and animal waste.
The CDC says when people forget to wash their hands, particularly after petting or handling an animal, or bring food into an area where animals are being housed, they are at risk of becoming ill. Washing your hands regularly can certainly save on medical bills. Because it costs less than a penny to wash your hands, you could say that a penny’s worth of prevention can save you a $50 visit to the doctor, and quite possibly a whole lot of pain and suffering.
Unfortunately, it’s not always that simple. We have seen cases where kids who never touched an animal or even got out of their strollers got sick.