Fair brings extra bacteria, health officials warn

OLYMPIA — The end of summer means fair time, and the state Department of Health is warning fair-goers and livestock exhibitors to stay as germ-free as possible with all the animals around.

“Going to see the animals at the fair is a treasured tradition for many families,” public health veterinarian Ron Wohrle said. “But even healthy animals can spread E. coli and Salmonella bacteria to people, which can make them sick. By following some basic safety tips you can enjoy the animals at the fair and stay healthy.”

Animals can carry bacteria and viruses in their saliva, on their coats, and in areas where their waste has been, according to the Department of Health.

About a half-million people across the United States contract illnesses or diseases from animals at fairs and petting zoos. Most of the time, it happens when people put their hands near their mouth or stick a contaminated object into their mouth or up their nose.

Those who are most at risk include pregnant women, the elderly, children under 5 years old and anyone who is already ill.

The Department of Health recommends washing hands with soap and water after touching animals and before eating or drinking.

“Children under five should be watched at all times while they visit animals to make sure they don’t put their hands or objects, like a pacifier, in their mouth while interacting with animals,” the department cautions. “Stroller wheels can also pick up germs from animal areas and have been tied to illnesses in the past.”

If someone does become sick after being in contact with animals, they’re urged to call their doctor.

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