Many diseases carried from animals to humans show no signs in the animal but can be potentially fatal to humans, such as ringworm, cat scratch fever, bacterial diarrhea, and E coli. All of these diseases can be prevented by common sanitary practices, especially hand-washing.
In the case of E. coli, most forms of the bacteria are not harmful. However, E. coli 0157:H7 causes not only gastroenteritis, fever, abdominal cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea, but can also cause hemolytic uremic syndrome, which destroys kidneys and can be fatal.
The source of E. coli 0157:H7 is usually contaminated meat; unpasteurized milk, cheese, orange juice, or apple juice; and contaminated drinking water (or swimming pools). Petting animals can also be a possible source, especially in petting zoos where fecal matter may be present.
Treatment for HUS requires hospitalization and blood transfusions. About 50% of children with HUS develop permanent kidney damage and require dialysis and kidney transplant. About 5% with HUS will die.
The following measures should be taken to reduce the risk of HUS:
• Wash hands with warm water and soap after handing animals, using the restroom, or changing diapers.
• Do not eat undercooked hamburger meat (the center should be heated to more than 160 degrees F and will not look pink when done).
• Freeze all meat that will not be eaten in 48 hours.
• Do not thaw frozen meat at room temperature (on counters).
• Place meat on the lowest rack in the refrigerator to prevent dripping on other food.
• Do not use the same surfaces/plates for uncooked and cooked meat.
• Wash food utensils thoroughly between uses.