The ongoing problems in the US led the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC ) to publish recommendations for reducing the risk of transmitting E. coli and other human pathogens at animal exhibits. In the wake of devastating E. coli outbreaks, several states including Pennsylvania and North Carolina have enacted laws requiring similar precautions. Yet in representing dozens of children sickened in these outbreaks over the years, Marler Clark has seen animal exhibitors continue to disregard these basic precautions:
1. Source control: Animals need to be screened for pathogens, and removed if `shedding` those pathogens.
2. Effective manure management: Sanitary removal of animal manure followed by sanitation of bins and traffic areas.
3. Dust control: Fecal dust can spread infectious agents onto surfaces, which results in human illness through hand to mouth transfer of pathogens.
4. Clean up and sanitation: Sanitize all contact surfaces.
5. Environmental sanitation: Prevent cross contamination of areas adjacent to animal holding areas, particularly food courts and drinking fountains.
6. Hand washing and sanitation facilities: Require visitors to wash and sanitize upon entry and exit to animal holding areas and petting zoos.
7. Clear protocol for petting zoo and animal contact areas: Hand-to-mouth activities such as eating, drinking, smoking, carrying toys and pacifiers should be strictly prohibited in the interaction area. Gloves should be available for additional protection.
8. Information should be provided: Wherever there is public access to farm animals, information about the risk associated with the transmission of pathogens should be provided to visitors.
9. Heightened precautions should be applied to high-risk groups: Children under age 5, people with weakened immune systems, and pregnant women fall in the category of high-risk for serious infection, and hence should strictly follow all the precautions enforced in the animal contact area.
We have been keeping track of most outbreaks involving petting zoos and county fairs and have compiled most of the information at www.fair-safety.com. Looks like I have to update it.