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Consumer Reports: Germ safety at fairs, farms and petting zoos

Posted: 4:00 AM, Sep 11, 2019
Updated: 2019-09-11 10:20:30-04
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TUCSON, Ariz. - Donovan Morales goes to Green Chimneys Farm School working with animals as part of its nature-focused education curriculum.

“Here adults teach kids to appreciate animals to respect animals," says Morales. "It allows kids to transition from being taken care of to being caretakers.”

And learning about animals includes lessons about cleanliness and safety, which is important not just for the animals, but also for anyone who interacts with them. Because even animals that are healthy and well taken care of, can carry germs that can make you sick.

“Here adults teach kids to appreciate animals to respect animals," says Farm and Wildlife Director, Green Chimneys Michael Kaufman. "It allows kids to transition from being taken care of to being caretakers.”

And learning about animals includes lessons about cleanliness and safety, which is important not just for the animals, but also for anyone who interacts with them. Because even animals that are healthy and well taken care of, can carry germs that can make you sick.

“Some of the most common harmful germs people get from animals at exhibits are E. coli, Cryptosporidium, and Salmonella," says Consumer Reports Health and Medicine Investigative Reporter, Lisa Gill. But there’s an easy way to keep yourself safe – wash your hands!”

The CDC says to wash your hands immediately after touching animals or anything in the area where they live! Even if you don’t touch the animals, it’s still important to wash your hands, because the pens and areas around where animals live can also be contaminated.

“Using running water and soap to wash your hands is always best, but if they are not available, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol and wash your hands with soap and water as soon as possible," says Gill.

To limit their exposure to the potentially harmful germs, don’t eat or drink around animals and make sure children keep their hands and fingers and other objects out of their mouths when they are around animals. Children also should not sit on the ground or play in the dirt of an animal area.

“The benefits of being outside of working with animals so outweigh those risks and so we teach the kids how to manage those risks," says Kaufman. "Wash your hands. Don't put your face in an animal’s face. Be logical about it.”

The same goes for your own pets! While the risk of getting sick isn’t as high, dogs and cats can make us sick, too. So children and adults should wash their hands after feeding or playing with their furry friends.