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Petting Zoo Ecoli Outbreak – The Danger No One Sees

Posted in E. coli,Our Blog,Outbreaks & Recalls on July 8, 2019

Petting zoos have become a fun summer activity for kids and adults alike. It connects them with their rural roots and it’s hard to resist those furry and feathered farm animals. However, contact with animals has its own health risks. Petting Zoo Ecoli dangers are out there – and can be deadly. Just recently, death of a 2-year old young boy after visiting petting zoo at San Diego County fair is a sad reminder of the dangerous germs these farm animals can carry. The toddler was one of the four children who contacted Ecoli at the petting zoo. Illnesses after visiting petting zoos isn’t uncommon, as you would think!

More than 100 outbreaks were reported to public health officials from 2010-2015 after visiting petting zoos or educational farms, according to CDC. The most common pathogen that causes illness is Ecoli followed by Salmonella and Cryptosporidium. All of them can cause severe (sometimes explosive) diarrhea along with other symptoms like vomiting, abdominal cramps, etc.

So, how do these germs get inside our body and cause the illness?

Most of the pathogens that cause infections like Salmonella, Ecoli and Campylobacter are present in the intestines of these animals. They shed it in their feces, which can then contaminate their surroundings and body of the animals. These bacteria spread to the hands of the people who touch these animals or their surroundings. And from the hands to their mouth – This is mainly how diarrheal illness spreads from animals to humans.

At the petting zoo, fecal contamination is present at various surfaces from gates, walls to pens and food containers of the animals. Keep in mind, that the contamination isn’t always visible to the naked eye or the animals who carry the pathogen in their intestine won’t always show any symptoms. Therefore, it is important to practice proper precautionary measures at all times.

Animals at least risk of transmission include:

  • Those who have good temperament
  • Adult animals (baby animals have the highest risk of transmission even though they might look like the cutest bunch out of all)
  • Animals that are healthy. This generally depends on the age and species of the animals.

Animals at most risk of transmission include:

  • Baby animals especially young lambs, baby goats and baby sheep
  • Wild animals who don’t have a good temperament or are not good at human interactions
  • Pregnant sheep or goat who are just about to give birth shouldn’t be kept at petting zoos.

How to prevent yourself and your kids from getting infected?

  • Wash hands: One of the easiest precautions that you should follow is washing hands with hot, soapy water after petting animals. This should especially be taken care of when you are taking your kids to the zoo. Make sure that they wash their hands immediately after petting the animals. Do not take your hands in your mouth before washing them. Carry antibacterial gel sanitizers with you in case hand washing facilities aren’t readily available.
  • Keep hands out of your mouth – Parents should accompany their child at all times, especially because they are at higher risk of developing infections. They should be instructed to not touch their face and take their hands in their mouths after petting animals. If your kid is a nail-biter or thumb sucker, extra precaution should be taken.
  • Make sure that you eat and drink before going to the petting area. You shouldn’t have anything while at the petting zoo except in the cafeteria.
  • Children shouldn’t be allowed to wander inside the pens of animals.
  • Bring a change of clothes for your child. A child’s clothes can get contaminated when they are leaning on the railing or get a little too close with the animals. Make sure that you change their as soon as you leave the zoo.
  • No matter how small your child is, brief them a little about the safety tips like washing their hands, not put their hands in the mouth and avoid contact with manure. If not all, they will at least follow a few of your tips.
  • Enquire about petting zoo hygiene. Ask questions about the safety of pens, how often they are cleaned and if they know about the consequences of not maintaining proper safety at the zoo.
  • Look out for the symptoms. Some of the early signs of E.Coli, Salmonella etc. is diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal cramps. As soon as you notice the symptoms, consult a doctor immediately. Early diagnosis often prevents serious complications.

Who are at a higher risk of infection?

Young children (who are less than 5 years old), elders, pregnant women and those with weakened immune system should maintain utmost hygiene at the petting zoo. They are not only at high risk of infection but they are at a higher risk of developing complications as well.

How to spot a good petting zoo?

  • Look for Warnings. Thorough information is provided to all the visitors entering the zoo authorities. The staff should know about all the risks and should be able to guide the visitors through proper sanitation procedures. Visitors should also be made aware of the high-risk animals.
  • Look for Handwashing Stations. The zoo should have easy access to hand washing stations. These stations should be fully equipped with liquid soaps, running water and disposable towels.
  • Look for Separation of Animals and Food. There should be restricted entry of animals in certain areas especially where the food is being served or made. No other activities or displays should be held in the area of petting zoo. This allows for better traffic movement around the zoo and the hand hygiene stations.
  • Look for Signs. Prominent banners and posters about hand-washing, avoiding food near petting areas and other general safety tips should be present all around the petting zoo.
  • Look for Cleanliness. Look for signs of cleanliness. The animals should look healthy, clean and have good temperament. The pens should look clean and any soiled bedding should be cleaned immediately.
  • Any high-risk animals like pregnant sheep or goat or those who don’t have good temperament shouldn’t be allowed inside the petting zoo.

Outbreaks aren’t always because of someone’s fault but there is always something someone can do. Therefore, it is important that you maintain any safety precautions before visiting high-risk environments like petting zoo. Anyone can get sick due to food poisoning pathogens. Take care of yourself and your kids by maintaining proper safety and washing your hands frequently.

The Lange Law Firm

Our mission is to help families who have been harmed by petting zoos and farms.  When corporations cause food poisoning or Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks or when petting zoos cause outbreaks, we use the law to hold them accountable.  The Lange Law Firm, PLLC is the only law firm in the nation solely focused on representing families in food poisoning lawsuits and Legionnaires disease lawsuits.

If you or your child was infected with Ecoli after attending a petting zoo and are interested in making a legal claim for compensation, we have an Ecoli lawyer ready to help you.  Call us for a free no obligation legal consultation at (833) 330-3663 or send us an e-mail here.

By: Pooja Sharma, Contributing Writer (Non-Lawyer)