School’s out, and summer vacations being planned. If there are little ones in your household, the probability of visiting fairs, zoos, theme parks or child-oriented special events are probably high on your list — including a petting zoo. Despite the recent cases of E. coli outbreaks at petting zoos, there’s no need to panic if you arm yourself with some facts and err on the side of caution.
When children touch animals, or touch something that has been in contact with animals, they become vulnerable to infection. They are also vulnerable when they come in contact with others, since the offending bacteria can be passed from person to person.
To help prevent E. coli infection, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has outlined their recommendations:
• Clean hands after visiting petting zoos or touching objects animals have been in contact. Washing hands is best, but hand sanitizers can be rubbed on hands to destroy germs. Tote-along size containers of hand sanitizers are readily available at supermarkets and discount stores.
• Always clean hands before touching food. Do not bring food or beverages into areas where there is direct contact with animals.
• Keep children away from the 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, etc. out of the petting zoo area. Avoid thumb sucking or otherwise putting hands into mouths until they are sanitized.