The Allegheny County Health Department is offering free signs to community fairs and festivals that have petting zoos with farm animals, to encourage visitors to wash their hands after visiting such exhibits.

“Petting zoos and farm animal exhibits are a tradition at many community events every summer and can be a lot of fun and very educational, but children and adults alike should always remember to wash their hands after having contact with the animals,” said County Health Director Dr. Bruce W. Dixon.

Health officials suggest these tips on how to enjoy petting zoos without contracting diseases that animals can sometimes carry, such as E. coli, Salmonella and a number of other infections:
• Don’t kiss the animals and limit your contact with them and the surroundings, such as fencing, stalls and gates, because manure may be present on their body and in their environment.
• Supervise young children and advise them to keep their hands out of their mouths.
• Don’t take food or drink into the animal area.
• Wash your hands as soon as you exit the animal area, and help young children wash their hands properly. Washing with soap and warm water is best; use antibacterial towelettes or lotion if handwashing facilities are not available.
• Clean your shoes when you return home and after doing so wash your hands.
• Call your doctor if you or your children get sick with stomach cramps, vomiting or diarrhea within a week of visiting a petting zoo. Tell the doctor you were around farm animals.