Nothing says summer fun like a visit to a county or state fair. But among the rides, exhibits and animal barns are bacteria waiting to spoil the day. Proper handwashing will make sure the fun doesn’t stop!
Cute Animals Shed More than Hair!
The first thing anyone wants to do when they see a cute animal is touch it. However, even the healthiest of animals may have bacteria that can make you very ill. All animals have bacteria in their poop (manure) and some like E. coli and Salmonella can make people really sick. The bacteria from an animal’s manure gets on it’s body, pen bedding, alleyways, equipment around the pens and even onto the hands, clothing, shoes and stroller wheels of passersby. Even small amount of manure carry millions of bacteria, including the kinds that make us sick. These bacteria are especially hazardous for young children.
Keep Your Family Safe
The Centers for Disease Control offers these tips to help keep your family healthy during their trip to the fair.
- Children younger than 5 years need constant adult supervision in animal areas.
- Avoid taking strollers, bottles, pacifiers, spill-proof cups or toys into animal areas.
- Never allow children to put thumbs, fingers, pacifiers or toys in their mouths when they’re around animals or in an animal area.
- Do not bring food or drink into the livestock areas.
- Children younger than 5 years, people older than 65, and people with weakened immune systems should take special care around animal exhibits.
Animal exhibits often offer hand sanitizer, but while better than nothing, sanitizer will not remove all bacteria from hands. As soon as possible, get to a place where hands can be thoroughly washed. Make sure you and your children use plenty of water and soap. Lather hands and scrub for at least 20 seconds. Rinse and dry thoroughly with paper towels. Watch your children to make sure they do all the steps!
Remember that other people who have visited animal exhibits are on the fairgrounds touching rides, picnic tables, grandstand seats and other surfaces. Frequent handwashing, especially before eating anything, will keep you safe! For more information on staying healthy at fair, see this fact sheet from Washington State Extension.