Contact with animals at fairs and petting zoos can be fun, but it also can lead to the transmission of various serious infectious diseases if proper precautions are not taken.
Children are most susceptible to infection from bacteria and parasites from animals because they are more likely to put their fingers or other objects into their mouths. Since animal fur, hair, skin and saliva can become contaminated with fecal organisms, transmission of disease can occur when persons pets, touch or are licked by animals.
Proper hand washing can reduce transmission of bacteria and parasites:
1. Wet hands with running water
2. Place soap in palms and rub hands together to make a lather
3. Scrub hands vigorously for 20 seconds
4. Rinse soap off hands
5. Dry hands with a disposable towel and use a disposable towel to turn off the water
Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are effective against many of the germs that animals can carry, but are not effective against bacterial spores, some parasites and certain viruses.
The Illinois departments of Agriculture and Public Health have designed five posters with the following precautions that persons should take when having contact with animals:
• Do not bring pacifiers, food or beverages into animal areas
• Closely supervise children to avoid touching manure, animal bedding and enclosures
• Do not put hands to the mouth after petting animals
• Wash hands after petting animals or touching the animal enclosure
• Assist young children with hand washing
The posters have been sent to all 105 county fairs in the state.