Animal nurseries and petting zoos: Why is soap and water hand washing so important?
A recent independent review in the Journal of Foodborne Pathogens and Disease (click here) explored the main causal organisms for people getting sick after attending petting zoos and animal nurseries. It found Shiga toxin–producing Escherichia coli, nontyphoidal Salmonella, Campylobacter, and Cryptosporidium were associated with the largest outbreaks involving petting zoos and animal nurseries. The author's of the study go on to discuss recommendations for how the public can be better protected in such environments. In particular, education of the public and and increased awareness of the risks, as well as the importance of hand hygiene and having easily accessible hand washing facilities.
The benefits of human-animal interaction are many, ranging from education to entertainment, to health and wellbeing. Despite the benefits, there are substantial risks if proper hygiene practices are not adhered to. Of particular concern are zoonotic diseases, which are infections passed between animals and humans. They are typically transmitted to humans via the fecal-oral route and children are particularly vulnerable due to their underdeveloped immune systems.
The authors document and summarise numerous zoonotic outbreaks associated with animal nurseries over the last 20 years. A comprehensive overview of their causes, legal, health and economic implications are discussed. Importantly, human risk behaviours are examined and the effectiveness of hand hygiene in protecting (or not protecting) people after interacting with animals. They note that thorough hand washing with soap and water is a key requirement. Hand washing which consists of creating a lather and scrubbing/massaging the hands for at least 20 seconds, followed by hand drying by paper towel or hand driers is required. They further detail the recent popularity of alcohol based santisers and note that they are not effective against many of the pathogens that may be present within a petting zoo environment, or when hands are visibly soiled. Consequently, easily accessible and visible hand washing infrastructure is a must.
Why does this matter?
The authors conclude that the risks associated with animal nurseries and petting zoos can be overcome with adequate education and avoidance of risk behaviours such as eating and drinking immediately before, after or during the interaction with animals.
Our portable hand wash stations are used worldwide to maintain good hand hygiene, prevent the spread of infection and keep us safe. For more information on our range feel free to call us on 1300 537 300 (+61 3 8353 7310 for international) or send us an online enquiry through our website!