I’m quoted by Beacon Journal medical writer Tracy Wheeler’s recent article Avoid Zoo Fever, which addresses the issue of fair safety precautions — like handwashing — to avoid getting E. coli at petting zoos and fairs. She also addresses the hidden risks, which handwashing won’t help.
From the article:
Sometimes, though, the risk is hidden. Consider what happened at the Medina County Fair in 2000, when 27 Northeast Ohioans were sickened by E. coli-contaminated water and ice used by vendors. The problem occurred when water near the cattle barn was siphoned into the water lines by hoses left lying in puddles. Washing their hands after petting the cows wouldn’t have helped them at all.
“So what do we do?” asked Seattle attorney Bill Marler of the Marler Clark firm, which files lawsuits nationwide related to bacterial illness. “Banish the county fair? Close down petting zoos?”
No, he said. But state legislatures should pass laws requiring hand-washing stations, signs explaining the threat of E. coli and other pathogens and the risk to small children, sanitary walkways and railings, ventilation in buildings to reduce airborne contamination, and a ban of food sales near areas where there is contact with animals.
Only Pennsylvania has passed such legislation.
“Perhaps these laws won’t eliminate the risk to public health,” he said, “but for a minimal investment, organizers can reduce the risk of sending kids to the hospital — or worse.”