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Petting Zoos Can Lead To Bacterial Infection And Illness

by Medindia Content Team on March 21, 2006 at 2:56 PM
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Petting Zoos Can Lead To Bacterial Infection And Illness

What might be fun for kids may lead to bacterial infection and gastrointestinal illness, reports a study that was conducted on petting zoos and feeding animals. The results of the study further project that most people were unaware that simple preventive measures such as hand washing could prevent such infections.

The results of three such similar studies would be presented at the International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases, to be held at Atlanta, on Monday. Contact with animals, animal faeces, surfaces that have been touched by people following petting of animals, drinking or eating while feeding or petting animals can provide for an ideal background for bacterial growth, paving way for increased risk of bacterial infection.

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At least 34 people developed illness related to E.coli infection (O157:H7) at two Florida petting zoos, the previous year. This research was carried out by researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in association with Health Department of Florida.

Feeding or touching a cow or goat, having manure on shoes or stepping in manure, drying hands on clothes after washing them at the zoo were found to result in increased risk of infection and illness. On the other hand, washing of hands and feet wit soap and lather following a visit to the zoo has a protective effect.
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Similar results were obtained from another similar study conducted on 227 visitors to the zoo. Amy E. Belflower, at the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, carried out the research. The effect was true even when the guidelines were followed by petting zoos.

They had the animals in pens, had signs about not bringing food and drink in, and lots of signs about washing your hands, and had good hand washing stations. But even with all those precautions, we still saw people engaging in risky behavior. The top three were bringing food into the area, bringing a stroller into the area, picking stuff like pet food off the ground. We also saw that 28 percent of the people who exited the petting area did not wash their hands, concluded Dr. Belflower.

The authors recommend strict adherence to personal hygiene practices to safeguard against such risks.

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