Certain venues, such as state fairs, petting zoos, and pet stores, allow public contact with animals, resulting in potential exposure to infectious diseases, rabies, and injuries. This report presents recommendations to public health officials, animal handlers, and visitors to such venues on minimizing these risks. Created: 7/6/2007 by MMWR.
Date Released: 7/6/2007. Series Name: A Cup of Health with CDC.
A CUP OF HEALTH WITH CDC
Wash Your Hands If You Pet That Bunny
Compendium of Measures to Prevent Disease Associated with Animals in
Public Settings, 2007
July 6, 2007
This podcast is presented by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
CDC – safer,
[Matthew Reynolds] Welcome to A Cup of Health with CDC, a weekly broadcast
MMWR, the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. I’m your host, Matthew
Most of us have fond memories of going to a petting zoo, having animals in
classroom, or some other close encounter with unusual animals. We can learn
lessons from those experiences, and children are often fascinated by the chance
a closer look at many different animal species a bit more exotic than the average
household pet. But did you know that animals can also carry diseases or germs
infect children and adults who come into contact with them? To keep children – and
ourselves – safe from illness or injury, it’s important to learn
about some basic rules to
Today, we will be talking with Dr. Casey Barton Behravesh, a research scientist
CDC’s infectious diseases center. Dr. Barton is one of the experts who
published a report about health and safety concerns related to animals in public
settings, such as petting zoos, schools, wildlife exhibits, and such. And even
important, recommendations for preventing illness or injuries that can occur
visiting these kinds of settings. Dr. Barton, welcome to the show.
[Dr. Barton] Thanks, Matthew. It’s a pleasure to be here.
[Matthew Reynolds] Dr. Barton, I imagine that many children and adults enjoy
of visiting a petting zoo and being able to get a closer look at animals that
unlikely to have as household pets, animals like goats or ponies. Some animal
even have rather exotic creatures that we might otherwise never see except
Even though these are opportunities that can be interesting, are there special
or health concerns with these people-animal encounters?
[Dr. Barton] Yes, Matthew. Animals can carry germs that can make people sick.
health concerns include injuries, such as bites or scratches. Additionally,
can be knocked over by animals in petting zoos or fall off of ponies on pony
have been an increasing number of infectious disease outbreaks, rabies exposures,
injuries associated with animal exhibit settings in the last 10 years. These
disease outbreaks are commonly associated with hand-to-mouth contact, and serious
illnesses have occurred, especially in children and others at higher risk.
are some risks, the benefits of human-animal contact are very important, and
can be minimized in properly supervised and managed settings.
[Matthew Reynolds] What can make people sick when they’re visiting these
[Dr. Barton] Animals can carry bacteria, parasites and viruses that can be
humans causing illnesses in humans. One bacteria of concern is a type of E.
type of E.coli can cause serious kidney disease, especially in children.
[Matthew Reynolds] For the parents that are listening to our podcasts, I know
them will probably be wondering, “What can I do to protect my children,
as well as
myself, when visiting these places?”
[Dr. Barton] Visitors to animal exhibits need to know about the disease and
and how to minimize these risks. One thing adults should do is always closely
children around any animals. Other at risk populations, such as the elderly
women, should take extra care around animal exhibits. People should never eat,
or put things into their mouth while visiting an animal exhibit, and the single
important step in preventing human infection from animal exhibit settings is
[Matthew Reynolds] Dr. Barton, you mentioned hand washing and I know we hear
about hand washing in the news. Is there a right way to wash hands when having
visited an animal exhibit or a petting zoo?
[Dr. Barton] Yes. First, you should wash (wet) your hands with running water.
Then, you place soap
onto your palms and rub the hands together to create a lather; a lather is
You need to scrub your hands vigorously for about 20 seconds, or the amount
of time it
takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice. You hold your hands
under the running
water to rinse off all the soap, and it’s important to dry your hands
on a disposable
paper towel, not on your clothing. Also, adults should always help children
hands. In some cases, soap and water may not be available. If that’s
the case, an
alcohol-based hand sanitizer should be used. But first, you have to remove
dirt or contamination on your hands before applying the hand sanitizer so it
will be more
effective. It’s also important to note that hands should be washed with
soap and water
RIGHT after visiting the animal area, even if you did not touch an animal.
also be washed after going to the bathroom, before eating, before preparing
foods, and after removing soiled clothes or shoes.
[Matthew Reynolds] Can the average person tell when visiting these animals
sick or have germs that they should be concerned about?
[Dr. Barton] It is impossible for anyone to look at an animal and tell if the
carrying these bacteria, viruses, or parasites. An animal can appear completely
and healthy. Many of these germs don’t cause illness in the animals and
are a normal
part of the animals’ gastrointestinal tracts. Also, these animals might
shed the germs
only some of the time, such as when they’re under stress due to travel
or being on
[Matthew Reynolds] Is it safe to keep animals in school classrooms?
[Dr. Barton] Matthew, learning from animals is definitely an important part
of a child’s
education, but there are some proper ways to manage animals in a classroom
Some animals, such as wild or exotic animals, may not be appropriate in a school
setting, and the type of animals that are kept or brought into a classroom
based on several things, including the age of the children and the type of
And again, all interactions with animals need to be supervised by an adult.
animals should never, ever be brought into a classroom setting: no bats; no
dangerous animals, such as tigers or bears; no monkeys or apes; no stray animals,
because these stray animals have an unknown health and vaccination history;
venomous or toxin-producing spiders, frogs, or reptiles.
[Matthew Reynolds] What if someone wants to learn more information about this
[Dr. Barton] To learn more information on ways to protect your health and the
your children who may be in contact with animals, you can call 1-800-CDC-INFO
to the CDC web site www.cdc.gov/healthypets. Here, you can find more information
about pets and also ways to protect your health around other types of animals.
[Matthew Reynolds] Thank you for taking the time to talk with us today Dr.
[Dr. Barton] Thanks very much for inviting me, Matthew.
[Matthew Reynolds] That’s it for this week’s show. Don’t
forget to join us next week.
Until then, be well. This is Matthew Reynolds for A Cup of Health with CDC.
To access the most accurate and relevant health information that affects you,
your family and
your community, please visit www.cdc.gov.