CDC: How to protect yourself around fair animals

As fair season gets underway, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns attendees to practice safe hygiene at petting zoos and around animals.

Animals in exhibits can be incredibly educational and fun, but can also put visitors at risk of various germs that can make people sick, including E. Coli and salmonella. From 2010-2015, the CDC said about 100 outbreaks were reported linked to animals in public settings like fairs, zoos, and farms.

If interacting with animals — such as feeding, holding, or petting — or touching exhibit areas, guests should wash their hands afterward. Even if visitors don’t interact with any animals, germs can still be spread from surfaces around exhibits.

Running water and soap are best to use, but if not available, the CDC recommends using an alcohol-based sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. If gloves are worn, the CDC still recommends washing hands afterward.

Especially at fairgrounds, food can find its way into animal exhibit areas. The CDC warns that visitors should not eat or drink around animals or their living areas. Food shouldn’t be shared with animals and visitors should not eat or drink any raw, or unpasteurized products.

For parents, always supervise children around animals. Children 5 years old and younger should not have any contact with reptiles, amphibians, or live poultry because those animals are more likely to make them sick, according to the CDC.

Parents should also leave strollers, toys, pacifiers, and cups outside animal exhibit areas. The CDC also says parents should make sure their children do not put their thumbs, fingers, or objects in their mouths when around animal areas.