This article was contributed by Samela Perez with San Benito County Public Health Services.
As community members set out to enjoy the summer fair season, San Benito County Public Health Services reminds fair attendees to take precautionary infection control steps when coming into contact with animals at animals exhibits.
“Most recently, four children were confirmed or probable as to contracting Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) infection and all four children attended the San Diego County Fair,” said San Benito County Interim Health Officer Dr. Marty Fenstersheib.
Every year, people become ill after contact with animals at animal exhibits, such as petting zoos. Therefore, it is important to follow these prevention steps when visiting animal exhibits (see Centers for Disease Control’s Stay Healthy at Animal Exhibits for complete list).
Wash your hands
• Find where the hand washing stations are located.
• Wash your hands right after touching animals or anything in the areas where they live, roam, or eat.
• Wash your hands when you leave animal areas, even if you didn’t touch the animals. Hands should still be washed if you wore gloves.
• Running water and soap are best, but if they are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol and wash your hands with soap and running water as soon as you can.
• Parents should wash hands of children before washing their own hands to prevent recontamination.
Keep food and animals separate
• Don’t eat or drink around animals, and keep food and drinks away from animal areas.
• Don’t share your food with the animals, even if you think the food is part of the animal’s regular diet. Animals should eat the food provided for them by the animal exhibit.
Keep children safe around animals
• Always supervise children around animals.
• Leave items such as strollers, pacifiers, cups, or toys outside the exhibit.
• Don’t let children put their thumbs, fingers, or objects (like pacifiers) in their mouths when they’re around animals or in an animal area.
• Don’t let children sit or play on the ground in animal areas.
For more information regarding Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli, please go to the Centers for Disease Control website, CDC’s Stay Healthy at Animal Exhibits webpage, California Department of Public Health fact sheet, or call Public Health Services at (831) 637-5367 or go to the website.