This time of year, you will find many holiday activities that include festivals, fairs, carnivals and many times, petting zoos. Many kids get excited to pet and feed the animals, but if they are not cautious, they can potentially become sick. Between 2010 and 2015, there were over 100 confirmed outbreaks of illnesses associated with petting zoos. The most common germs that people encounter include E. coli, Cryptosporidium, and Salmonella, but there are many other types of germs that can be spread between people and animals.
Who is the most at risk?
Children under 5 years of age as well as adults over the age of 65 are more likely to get sick from germs carried by animals. Those with a weakened immune system are also more at risk and should take extra precautions at petting zoos. Petting animals can be a fun activity if you practice safety first to ensure no one gets sick. After petting any animal, you need to make sure you wash your hands with soap and water. Not washing your hands or eating or drinking in the petting area increase your chances of getting sick.
How to Keep Loved Ones Healthy
Keep these important tips in mind when visiting petting zoos or anywhere where you can meet the animals.
· Wash your hands right after touching the animals. Even if you do not touch the animals, but you go into their habitat, it is still important to wash your hands.
· When it comes to washing your hands, soap and water works best! If you cannot find a hand-washing area nearby, then using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol will work as well. But make sure to wash your hands as soon as you can.
· Do not eat or drink around animals and keep food and drink out of the areas where animals are kept. It is also important to make sure you do not share your food with the animals.
· Always make sure to supervise children when they are around the animals.
· Do not let children sit or play on the grounds where the animals stay or live.
· Do not let children put anything in their mouths including fingers or an object such as a pacifier.
Visiting pettings zoos can be incredibly fun and educational, but we want to make sure it’s safe for all those involved too! If you are concerned that you might have fallen ill after visiting a petting zoo, call the poison center hotline for assistance at 1-800-222-1222. The poison centers can answer any of your questions and assist you with any poisoning concerns.