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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Health Officials Help Keep Fair-Goers Healthy this Fair Season

Cowlitz Health Department Encourages Hand Washing at the County Fair and other Petting Zoo and Animal Exhibits
Contact with animals in public settings, such as petting zoos, fairs and other animal exhibits, provides opportunities for entertainment and education about animals. However each year, illnesses such as E. coli O157:H7 and cryptosporidiosis are associated with contact between people (often children) and animals on exhibit.
People get sick from these germs by swallowing them. Once the germs are on your hands, you can accidentally get them in your mouth while eating, drinking, or during other hand-to-mouth activities such as smoking or thumb sucking. These germs may end up on your hands after contact with animals or the environment they are being kept in, such as pens, hay, and hand railings. Baby animals are especially likely to have these germs because they haven’t had a chance to become immune to them.
"We encourage people to enjoy the County fair and other events that teach us about farming, livestock and other animals. Hand-washing is a simple action to practice on a regular basis to slow the spread of germs between animals and humans," said Dr. Jennifer Vines, Health Officer with the Cowlitz County Health Department. "Our best advice is to tell people to wash their hands frequently to help prevent illness."
Tips to reduce risk of getting sick from animals at a petting zoo or fair:
Wash your hands with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds upon exiting animal areas even if you did not touch an animal.
If no running water and soap is available, hand sanitizer may be used until you are able to wash your hands.
Wash your hands before you eat, drink, smoke, or chew (tobacco, gum, etc.).
Keep food, drinks, baby bottles, pacifiers, and toys out of animal areas.
Park strollers outside of animal areas.

Children younger than 5 years old should be supervised while interacting with the animals and during hand washing. Young children are more likely to get sick because they often touch surfaces contaminated with animal stool and are more likely to put their hands in their mouth.

The Cowlitz County Fair begins today and runs through Sunday.

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