JACKSON HOLE, WYO – With the Teton County Fair underway and running through July 28, the Wyoming Department of Health wants everyone to avoid bringing home illnesses from traditional animal events and exhibits such as fairs, rodeos and petting zoos.
Courtney Smith, WDH epidemiologist, says diseases such as salmonella, E. coli, campylobacter and others can be picked up from contact with animals.
“Every year we receive reports of diseases linked to animal-focused events,” she said. “We want these occasions to remain enjoyable for everyone who attends.”
It doesn’t take much to become sick. Being around animals and then eating is a recipe for illness.
“Many of the germs come from feces and only a tiny amount is required to make you ill,” Smith stated. “Even though your hands or clothes may not look dirty, you can still have enough germs on them to cause illness.”
Symptoms from these illnesses typically include stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting and nausea. Serious illnesses requiring hospitalization sometimes occur; children and pregnant women are especially vulnerable.
Smith advises people to take precautions to avoid becoming ill, including always washing hands:
- After touching animals or their living areas
- After leaving the animal area
- After taking off dirty clothes or shoes
- After going to the bathroom
- Before preparing foods, eating or drinking
To wash hands correctly, people should:
- Wet hands with clean, running water
- Apply soap
- Rub hands to create a lather and scrub well including the backs of the hands, between the fingers and under fingernails
- Wash for at least 20 seconds
- Rinse hands
- Dry hands using a clean paper towel or air dry them. Do not dry hands on clothing
Washing hands with soap and water is the best way to reduce germs. If soap and water are not available, a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol can be substituted.
Other healthy habits include not eating or drinking in animal areas and ensuring young children and pregnant women are extra careful when near animals.
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