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Risk behaviors for disease transmission among petting zoo attendees

McMillian, M., Dunn, J.R., Keen, J.E., Brady, K.L., Jones, T.F.
Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 2007 v.231 no.7 pp. 1036-1038
disease transmission, zoonoses, zoos, zoo animals, epidemiological studies, bacteriology, eating habits, sanitizers, sanitation, hygiene, risk factors, disease prevention, Escherichia coli, Salmonella, Tennessee
To evaluate risk behaviors for transmission of zoonotic diseases at petting zoos during a period without a recognized disease outbreak. Observational survey with environmental microbiologic sampling. 6 petting zoos in Tennessee. Attendees were observed for animal and environmental contact, eating or drinking, hand-to-face contact, and use of a hand sanitizer. Hands were examined via bacteriologic culture on some attendees. Environmental samples were collected at three petting zoos. 991 attendees were observed; of these, 74% had direct contact with animals, 87% had contact with potentially contaminated surfaces in animal contact areas, 49% had hand-to-face contact, and 22% ate or drank in animal contact areas. Thirty-eight percent used hand sanitizer; children had better compliance than adults. Results of bacteriologic cultures of hands were negative for Salmonella spp and Escherichia coli O157; Salmonella spp were isolated from 63% and E coli O157 from 6% of the environmental samples. High risk behaviors were common among petting zoo visitors, and disease prevention guidelines were inconsistently followed. This is an example of the importance of one-medicine, one-health initiatives in protecting the public health. Veterinarians, venue operators, and public health authorities must work together on targeted education to improve implementation of existing disease prevention guidelines.