April 30, 2009

CDC: Users guide for the ‘petting zoo’

Petting zoo operators need to adhere to guidelines for supervised hand washing to reduce the risk of infection in children, U.S. health officials said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Weekly Report said animal settings provide an opportunity for human-animal contact that may facilitate disease transmission.

The National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians released recommendations to minimize risks associated with animals in public settings. The recommendations summarize a description of an outbreak in which -- even when the venue followed recommendations on the use of hand-washing facilities, signage, and hand hygiene compliance -- there remains a potential for disease transmission.

Contact with animals in public settings such as petting zoos, animal swap meets, pet stores, nature parks, educational farms, county or state fairs, daycare or schools provides opportunities for entertainment and education. However, disease and injury occur among visitors to these settings.

Since 1996, disease outbreaks involving hundreds of people have been reported, including E. coli O157:H7, Salmonella, Cryptosporidium and Campylobacter.

The guidelines said although eliminating all risk from animal contacts is not possible, risks can be minimized by measures such as washing hands, providing adequate soap and paper towels and providing signs reminding visitors to wash their hands upon leaving the animal contact area and guiding them on proper hand washing techniques.