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Extension > Food > Food Safety > Sanitation and Illness > Animal Contact in Public Settings

Sanitation and Illness

Animal Contact in Public Settings

Revised 2013 by Kathy Brandt, Extension Educator - Food Safety

Minnesotans of all ages have many opportunities to have contact with animals in public settings, such as petting zoos, fairs and farm tours. These opportunities provide entertainment and education about animals and animal husbandry. These human-animal contacts have a number of risks involved.

Groups at high-risk for serious infection include children less than 5 years of age, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems. The behaviors and actions of people are significantly related to the risk of infection. Among these are inadequate hand washing, large numbers of children among attendees, a lack of close supervision of children, hand-to-mouth activities, (e.g. smoking, eating, use of pacifiers, bottles, sippy cups and thumb sucking) in the animal area, and a lack of education and awareness of the risk.

The primary way transmission occurs is the fecal oral route. Since animal fur, hair, skin and saliva can become contaminated with fecal organisms, transmission may occur when people pet, touch, or are licked by animals.

Recommendations for Animal Areas

Other Recommended Resources

Compendium of Measures to Prevent Disease Associated with Animals in Public Settings (2 MB PDF) — National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians

Reviewed by Suzanne Driessen 2016

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