Extra caution has been enforced recently by reports of an outbreak of E. coli traced to fairs in Florida and involving mostly children. It never hurts to be safe, and one way to do that, according to all the doctors and veterinarians questioned, is extremely simple and very basic: wash your hands after any and all contact with animals.
To encourage proper precautions, there are hand-washing stations in all barns at the Elkhart County 4-H Fair., be used after all contact.
“The animals are in an environment where bacteria could flourish. Children and those with compromised immune systems should be sure to take care,” says Dr. Jerry Sellon of Weldy & Associates Animal Clinic in Wakarusa, the veterinarian for the Fair.
Regular veterinary checks and inspections are also helpful. The Elkhart County 4-H Fair’s animals are inspected before coming to the Fair. Before joining the petting zoo at South Bend’s Potawatomi Zoo, animals are tested and quarantined for 30 days from whenever they arrive. And the animals at the Scidmore Park Petting Zoo in Three Rivers, Mich., there is a 10-day quarantine and periodic check by veterinarians.
Taking along a bottle of anti-bacterial hand sanitizer is strongly suggested by Sarah Burkholder, Elkhart County Health Department community health nursing manager.
“Health-care workers have used it for years,” she said. “It’s an effective means to interrupt the transmission of any infectious disease.”
Reba Locher, pediatric nurse practitioner at the Family Medicine Center in Goshen, agreed, adding
“Especially with 2-to-4-year-olds. They tend to touch and then put their fingers in their mouths.”