Nearly 30 state, county and community fairs are scheduled before the end of September all around the country.
As much as it is a great opportunity for kids to see a sheep sheared, a cow milked, a chick hatched and – best of all – to hug or pet a cuddly baby calf or a newborn goat, state officials are reminding families to be cautious, especially around the animals.
State officials don’t want an outbreak of a potentially deadly strain of E. coli bacteria like the one that infected 26 people, most of them children, at fairs in Florida over the past winter.
This month, about 70 fair managers from across the state attended a two-day workshop on preventing food- and animal-borne illness.
Fairgoers will see more hand-washing stations this year than in the past, along with signs reminding them to do so. 4-H and Future Farmers of America volunteer groups have also joined in, to encourage visitors leaving animal barns to wash their hands.
In addition, the North Carolina General Assembly passed legislation this month that requires stricter sanitation requirements for petting zoos, and at the Saratoga County Fair in New York managers placed hand sanitizer on poles scattered about the grounds.
“Go to the fair and enjoy it,” said John R. Brooks, deputy secretary of the Maryland Department of Agriculture and a veterinarian. “Interact with animals, but use good hygiene practices, commonsense things like washing your hands after petting the animals.”