preventing illness from animal-to-human contact

Prevent Petting Zoo Peril!

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wants people to take precautions around animals to prevent sickness.

RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—That nasty stomach bug you suspect invaded your gut after downing tainted funnel cake at the county fair may have actually come from an animal on display. While there are many benefits of animal-to-human contact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also wants people to take precautions to avoid zoonotic diseases, i.e. infections that are passed from animals to us.

THE DETAILS: The CDC reports that in the last 10 years, places where people have close contact with animals have sparked infectious disease outbreaks caused by E. coli, salmonella, cryptosporidium, ringworm, and other pathogens. These types of places include: county or state fairs, petting zoos, animal swap meets, pet stores, zoos, circuses, carnivals, educational farms, livestock birthing exhibits, and wildlife exhibits that feature photo opportunities. Intestinal infections caused by bacteria and parasites pose the biggest risk for humans; people are most often infected after putting a germy hand in their mouth after touching an animal’s fur, hair, or skin, or after letting an animal eat from or lick their hand.

Animals, although they may appear healthy, are often under a lot of stress in these situations because of being transported and handled by so many people. This excess stress causes them to shed more pathogens. Some other things to consider:

• Germs carried by the animals can live for months in the environment; one study found E. coli associated with an outbreak persisted in animal bedding for 10 days after a fair, and for 5 months in the soil.

• Cattle, sheep, and goats commonly carry these organisms, but poultry, rodents, reptiles, and other wild and domestic animals can be carriers, too.

• Young animals are most likely to be infected and to shed these pathogens.


Published on: June 11, 2009

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Well, thanks for informing us

Well, thanks for informing us about this. People should by now be careful when around animals to prevent diseases. I guess it's really important to wash hands because we don't know what bacteria and virus we could get from the things we've touched. Kyle Thomas Glasser

Come On

Yes, most people haven't got the brains "God gave geese" to quote a dear farmer and friend, and so have to be told exactly how to wash their hands and when... People should also, then, be made aware that dogs, cats and bunnies can also carry zoonotic diseases. But then the people that need to read this are also probably walking around town with a loose face mask on these days.

People need to get lives and take a modicum of personal responsibility. If even Rodale feels the need to warn people off of petting zoos (who has EVER managed to keep a two year old from kissing something fuzzy, let alone putting things in their mouth (usually things IN their hand, rather than just the hand itself)), there is a problem with the general intelligence level of humanity as a whole.

All in all, I agree with the majority of comments here. First of all, its interesting to think that of all sources, Rodale writers wouldn't have attended at least one fair in their lifetime.

When's the last time anyone went to a fair where some of the people who BROUGHT the animals didn't have strollers, toys, baby bottles, and - indeed - their infants with the rest of the family as well as the livestock? Of course, if you are showing your animal at the fair, YOUR food, water bottles and such are all right there in the area of your stalls.

Do we really believe that all those kids showing their prized animals didn't also grow up surrounded by livestock? How is it that they have survived long enough to even get to the show?? Wow.

Lastly - I have many many friends who own livestock and have attended many many fairs, too. I've never once gotten sick sharing either my ice cream OR a kiss with any animal at any location. I have, however, gotten very sick from eating in restaurants, though not after having visited a petting zoo, fair or farm.

Zoonotic disease is real. However, its not even that the "majority" don't get sick from contact with the live animals - those numbers are so miniscule as to make articles like this ridiculous in the extreme. You have a better chance of locating a rogue package of tainted Westland/Hallmark ground beef in your local grocery store!! And, by the way, that meat - all 43 MILLION pounds of it, was contaminated at the processor, and not located until after people got sick because the government agencies responsible for ensuring these facilities are sanitary cannot be trusted to do their job.

All this is just another excuse for eliminating freedom in the name of safety (and preying on the uneducated and unsuspecting public to do so) from NAIS to the "food safety" bills - not one of which would protect you from a hangnail. But they will eliminate the fear of all those livestock being at county fairs (no one will still be in business but the CAFO's), and your ability to choose quality, healthy and nutritious meat (and produce, too!) for your own table.

Don't forget - many that show produce at those fairs, also have, if not show livestock - so look out - those greenbeans can be contaminated too! And that chocolate cake, and the crocheted baby blankets as well.

People really need to get themselves to a farm and see how their food should be raised, and then turn on the Discovery Channel the next time Mike Rowe finds himself at some industrial-model farm. Better yet, find one near you!!! They are all over, and they are sickening for far more reasons than e-coli and salmonella.

Rodale should be ashamed.

animal petting

Pelple get sick because they don't eat healthy food, allow negative thoughts, are not kind, don't carefully examine their life-style, have habits that don't support a healthy immune system and a sane community. I was shocked at the recent attitude of Rodale of regurgitating the party line of the CDC and FDA. Cancel all these unwanted, unnecessary articles--organic gardening is what we want to educate ourselves about.

killing ourselves off

In our over sanitized societies we have become so susceptible to getting diseases we had long ago been immune too. We, in our germ free phobic mind set are actually weakening our immune systems to a point of pandemic proportions.. For God sake let the kids pet the animals,,, maybe they might be the ones to survive after the rest of us have wasted away from things our bodies used to be able to take.That is how we build up our immune systems.... has the CDC forgotten that? We are taking care of our own over population... we are weakening ourselves so much, expanding frailty into the gene pool, so that one good bird flu and the only things left will be Ivy, Kudzu, crows and sparrows. Articles like these give BAD advice.

I agree

Touche Wendy! I thought this was a site promoting natural lifestyle, health and food.

Animals Infecting People

Ah, one more reason to have people get hysterical. All the farm people I knew growing up in Michigan were healthier than anyone I know. Growing up I went to many petting zoos. When my kids grew up, I took them to petting zoos. None of us worse for the wear. I've belonged to this site for a while but have been shocked lately at the lame animal related articles they've had promoting paranoia. I'm at the point of canceling the whole newsletter because of it.

Jumping into bed with the CDC

I'm having a difficult time with many of your articles right now because they seem to be spouting the "party line" according to the CDC or the FDA. I think you should stick to information about eating healthy and gardening, and stay away from the very controversial subject of my humble opinion.


Thanks for the great info!

First of all, this article isn’t even about small farms; it’s about people who aren't used to being around animals, such as at fairs and animal exhibits, etc. And second of all, if anyone supports small farms it’s Rodale -- CLEARLY and without a doubt.

The article also specifically noted that MOST people who visit petting zoos and animal exhibits DON’T get sick, so I think you may need to go back and read the article again because you took it totally out of context. It was about being careful and paying attention to hygiene when you’re around the animals—not about staying away from them.

I thought the story was very helpful...thanks for the info Rodale!!

Infections From Animals Article

I am thoroughly disappointed by your article above. You have either put on "the blinders" are have jumped into bed with the CDC. At what cost. This has to be an inroad for the government to help spread propaganda that will further their effort to bring the NAIS to fruition.

The implementing of the NAIS will put small family farmers, that supply us with the highest quality food, out of business, as well as make it nearly impossible for any individual to own their own small flock of chickens, milk/beef cows, etc. for their personal consumption.

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