Fair and Petting Zoo Safety

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2000 Snohomish County, Washington, Petting Zoo E. coli Outbreak

The Snohomish Health District, Communicable Disease Department (June, 2000) reported five cases of bacterial diarrhea caused by E. coli O157:H7 in children in Snohomish County in May 2000. Three of the children visited a petting zoo several days before they became sick. The fourth child did not visit the petting zoo, but lived on another farm where cattle were raised. An ensuing investigation of the farm by Snohomish Health District (SHD) and by the Washington Department of Health revealed that the children were allowed to touch young poultry, rabbits and goats. Children brought their own lunches and ate close to the penned animals. Animal fecal samples tested negative for E. coli O157:H7. The Health District believed that the three children visiting the petting zoo acquired the bacterial diarrhea due to a lack of adequate hand washing facilities. It was also noted that no informational signs were posted to instruct the visitors how to wash their hands after touching the animals and before eating.

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