Category Archives: Salmonella

Salmonella cases in Washington state linked to raw tuna

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Alert IconMore than 60 people have been infected with the bacterium Salmonella in an 11-state outbreak that has been linked to eating raw tuna.

As of last week, two cases have been reported in Washington state. Nationwide, 11 people have been hospitalized, but there have been no deaths.

The outbreak has prompted a recall of frozen yellowfin tuna distributed by the Osamu Corporation, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The two recalls include:  Continue reading

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Salmonella illness outbreak appears to be linked to pork

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More than 50 cases in eight Washington counties in 2015 so far

From the Washington State Department of Health

Credit: Rocky Mountain Laboratories,NIAID,NIH

Credit: Rocky Mountain Laboratories,NIAID,NIH

State health officials are working with state and local partners to investigate several cases and clusters ofSalmonella infections that appear to be linked to eating pork.

The ongoing investigation of at least 56 cases in eight counties around the state includes food served at a variety of events.

Disease investigators continue to explore several sources from farm to table, and are focused on an apparent link to pork consumption or contamination from raw pork.

Salmonellosis, the illness caused by infection with Salmonella, can cause severe and even bloody diarrhea, fever, chills, abdominal discomfort, and vomiting. Serious bloodstream infections may also occur.

As of July 23, the 56 cases include residents of King (44), Snohomish (4), Mason (2), Thurston (2), Pierce (1), Grays Harbor (1), Yakima (1), and Clark (1) counties.

Five of the cases were hospitalized; no deaths have been reported. All were infected with the same strain of Salmonella bacteria.

The disease investigation shows a potential exposure source for several cases was whole roasted pigs, cooked and served at private events.

The source of contamination remains under investigation by state and local health officials and federal partners. Continue reading

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Pet geckos linked to Salmonella outbreak

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creasted-geckos-325A total of 20 persons infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Muenchen have been reported from 16 states since January 1st including two in Washington state, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports.

Three of these ill persons have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.

The outbreak appears to be linked to pet crested geckos purchased from multiple pet stores in different states, with Ten of 11 ill persons interviewed reported contact with a crested gecko in the week before their illness began.

map-5-15-2015

The CDC advises:

This outbreak is a reminder to follow simple steps to enjoy your pet and keep your family healthy. CDC does not recommend that pet owners get rid of their geckos.

It is very important to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water right after touching pet reptiles or anything in the area where they live and roam.

More steps on how to enjoy your pet reptile and protect yourself and your family from illness are available in English and en Español.

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Our plan to combat and prevent antibiotic-resistant bacteria

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TuberculosisOp-Ed: By Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Sylvia Mathews, Secretary of the Department of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, and  Secretary of the Department of Defense Ash Carter

Antibiotics save millions of lives every year. Today, however, the emergence of drug resistance in bacteria is undermining the effectiveness of current antibiotics and our ability to treat and prevent disease.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that drug-resistant bacteria cause two million illnesses and approximately 23,000 deaths each year in the United States alone.

Antibiotic resistance also limits our ability to perform a range of modern medical procedures, such as chemotherapy, surgery, and organ transplants. That’s why fighting antibiotic resistance is a national priority.

Combating and preventing antibiotic resistance, however, will be a long-term effort. That’s why, today, the Administration is releasing the National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria (NAP).

The NAP outlines a whole-of-government approach over the next five years targeted at addressing this threat:

1. Slow the emergence of resistant bacteria and prevent the spread of resistant infections 

The judicious use of antibiotics in health care and agriculture settings is essential to combating the rise in antibiotic resistance. We can help slow the emergence of resistant bacteria by being smarter about prescribing practices across all human and animal health care settings, and by continuing to eliminate the use of medically-important antibiotics for growth promotion in animals. Continue reading

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Cities turn to social media to police restaurants

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yelp-logoBy Jenni Bergal
Stateline

Many diners regularly click onto the Yelp website to read reviews posted by other patrons before visiting a restaurant.

Now prospective customers also can use Yelp to check health inspection scores for eateries in San Francisco, Louisville and several other communities.

Local governments increasingly are turning to social media to alert the public to health violations and to nudge establishments into cleaning up their acts. A few cities are even mining users’ comments to track foodborne illnesses or predict which establishments are likely t­­o have sanitation problems.

Customers also can use Yelp to check health inspection scores for eateries in San Francisco, Louisville and several other communities.

“For consumers, posting inspection information on Yelp is a good thing because they’re able to make better, informed decisions about where to eat,” said Michael Luca, an assistant professor at Harvard Business School who specializes in the economics of online businesses. “It also holds restaurants more accountable about cleanliness.” Continue reading

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Ducklings and chicks: Nature’s impossibly cute little bacteria factories

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At least 39 Washingtonians report illness after contact with live poultry, during 2012-2014

Chicks chickens

From the Washington State Department of Health

The season for seeing chicks and ducklings tweet and quack their tiny ways into people’s hearts is officially underway. But it’s not always wise to follow the flock when a brood or clutch is concerned.

At least 39 Washingtonians have reported getting ill from Salmonella bacteria after coming in contact with live poultry in the past three years, according to reports reviewed by disease investigators at the state’s Department of Health.

These 39 cases were associated with three separate national Salmonella outbreaks that caused more than 1,200 people to get sick.

Contact with live poultry may also have contributed to more than 100 other cases of salmonellosis in our state in the past three years that weren’t associated with any known outbreak.

PHOTO: Courtesy of Siehe Lizenz under Creative Commons license

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Why I love family-run restaurants: Insights from a food inspector

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cropped-eyob-in-idBy Eyob Mazengia, PhD, RS, Food Protection Program
Public Health – Seattle & King County

When I started as a food inspector, I was assigned to the International District. And I liked it. It was almost like walking into a new culture, a new era.

What fascinated me was that as a public health worker, I had permission to walk into people’s personal spaces. I liked the smells, the sounds of their languages, their wall hangings and the way things looked.

It was a privilege, really, to be allowed into their personal spaces. Going on food inspections in the I.D., it was like walking into 3-4 different countries every day, without traveling outside the neighborhood.

Over the years, I established good relationships with the restaurant establishments. They were no longer just restaurant operators—they were mothers, fathers, grown kids. They’re not just businesses—there’s a family behind every door, people who had often gone through difficult times to be here.

And as I got to know them, I could recognize the sacrifices they made to give their children better opportunities in the U.S., and what they left behind. Even those born and raised here, you could recognize the sacrifices they were making. Continue reading

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Washington scores four out of 10 on key indicators related to preventing and responding to infectious disease outbreaks

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From Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation 

Washington scored only four out of 10 on key indicators related to preventing, detecting, diagnosing and responding to outbreaks, like Ebola, Enterovirus and antibiotic-resistant Superbugs.

Some key Washington findings include:

No. Indicator Washington Number of States Receiving Points
A “Y” means the state received a point for that indicator
1 Public Health Funding: Increased or maintained level of funding for public health services from FY 2012-13 to FY 2013-14. N 28
2 Preparing for Emerging Threats: State scored equal to or higher than the national average on the Incident & Information Management domain of the National Health Security Preparedness Index. Y 27 + D.C.
3 Vaccinations: Met the Healthy People 2020 target of 90 percent of children ages 19-35 months receiving recommended ≥3 doses of HBV vaccine. N 35 + D.C.
4 Vaccinations: Vaccinated at least half of their population (ages 6 months and older) for the seasonal flu for fall 2013 to spring 2014. N 14
5 Climate Change: State currently has completed climate change adaption plans – including the impact on human health. Y 15
6 Healthcare-acquired Infections: State performed better than the national standardized infection ratio (SIR) for central line-associated bloodstream infections. N 16
7 Healthcare-acquired Infections: Between 2011 and 2012, state reduced the number of central line-associated blood stream infections. N 10
8 Preparing for Emerging Threats: From July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014, public health lab reports conducting an exercise or utilizing a real event to evaluate the time for sentinel clinical laboratories to acknowledge receipt of an urgent message from laboratory. N 47 + D.C.
9 HIV/AIDS: State requires reporting of all CD4 and HIV viral load data to their state HIV surveillance program. Y 37 + D.C.
10 Food Safety: State met the national performance target of testing 90 percent of reported Escherichia coli (E. coli) O157 cases within four days. Y 38 + D.C.
Total  4

 Read the full report here.

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Avoid raw milk, it’s just not worth the risk, says CDC

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Photo by Maciej Lewandowski

Photo by Maciej Lewandowski

From the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Raw milk can carry harmful germs that can make you very sick or kill you. If you’re thinking about drinking raw milk because you believe it has health benefits, consider other options.

Developing a healthy lifestyle requires you to make many decisions. One step you might be thinking about is adding raw milk to your diet. Raw milk is milk that has not been pasteurized (heating to a specific temperature for a set amount of time to kill harmful germs). Germs include bacteria, viruses, and parasites.

Making milk safe
Milk and products made from milk need minimal processing, called pasteurization. This process includes:

  • Heating the milk briefly (for example, heating it to 161°F for about 15 seconds)
  • Rapidly cooling the milk
  • Practicing sanitary handling
  • Storing milk in clean, closed containers at 40°F or below

While it is possible to get foodborne illnesses from many different foods, raw milk is one of the riskiest of all.

When milk is pasteurized, disease-causing germs are killed. Harmful germs usually don’t change the look, taste, or smell of milk, so you can only be confident that these germs are not present when milk has been pasteurized.

Remember, you cannot look at, smell, or taste a bottle of raw milk and tell if it’s safe to drink.

Risks of drinking raw milk

Raw milk can carry harmful bacteria and other germs that can make you very sick or even kill you. While it is possible to get foodborne illnesses from many different foods, raw milk is one of the riskiest of all. Getting sick from raw milk can mean many days of diarrhea, stomach cramping, and vomiting. Less commonly, it can mean kidney failure, paralysis, chronic disorders, and even death.

Continue reading

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Food inspection grades: A – B – C , easy as 1 – 2 – 3 … or is it?

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EatBy hilarykaraszkc
Public Health Insider: Behind-the-scenes of the agency protecting the health and well-being of all people in Seattle & King County

New York City has them, so does L.A. Even Toronto has them. So why aren’t there food safety inspection grades posted outside of restaurants in King County?

The answer? Food safety performance placarding is coming, and when it does, it will give patrons and establishments alike information that is meaningful, clear, and motivating.

Diners need to know actual risk

There’s a lot on the line: Studies show that restaurant placards influence consumer behavior. But research on the systems that give A-B-C grades shows that A-B-C placards don’t communicate what consumers are expect. Continue reading

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Grilling tips from the Department of Health

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State officials advise: be known for great grilling, not making people sick

Photo by Michal Zacharzewski

Photo by Michal Zacharzewski

Food safety experts from the Department of Health want people to know how to protect themselves and their loved ones from foodborne illnesses, especially when preparing foods for picnics and barbecues during warm weather.

“Bacteria in or on food can multiply quickly in warm weather,” explains State Health Officer Dr. Kathy Lofy. “By making sure food is prepared, cooked, and served properly you can reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses and be well-known for great barbecues and picnics instead of for making people sick.”

Safeguards can be taken when preparing foods to be eaten outdoors, such as using a food thermometer to make sure that meat and poultry are cooked at the correct temperature. Continue reading

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Keep germs off the guest list at holiday meals

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Uncooked turkey in a pot

Keep all your guests healthy by following these food safety tips from the Snohomish Health District.

Proper planning.

Make sure your kitchen has everything you need for safe food handling, including two cutting boards (one for raw meats and seafood and the other for ready-to-eat foods), a food thermometer, shallow containers for cooling and storage, paper towels and soap.

Store foods in the refrigerator at 41°F or below or in the freezer at 0°F or below. Check the temperature of both the refrigerator and freezer with a refrigerator thermometer.

Safe shopping. 

At the grocery store, bag raw meat, poultry and seafood separate from ready-to-eat foods like fruit, vegetables and bread. Don’t buy bruised or damaged produce, or canned goods that are dented, leaking, bulging or rusted, as these may become a breeding ground for harmful bacteria. Buy cold foods last and bring foods directly home from the store.

Always refrigerate perishable foods, such as raw meat or poultry, within two hours. Thaw frozen turkey in the refrigerator or under cold-running water. Never defrost the turkey at room temperature.

Working in the kitchen. 

Got extra helpers in the kitchen? Make sure everyone washes their hands thoroughly with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling food, visiting the restroom, or changing a baby’s diapers. Keep all work surfaces sanitized, too. Spray or wipe on a solution of 1 tsp of unscented bleach per gallon of cold water.

When baking holiday treats, remember that no one should eat raw cookie dough or brownie batter containing raw eggs. Make eggnog with pasteurized eggs and pasteurized milk, or simply buy it ready-made with those ingredients.

Adding a nip of brandy or whiskey will not kill the germs. When making homemade eggnog, be sure to cook the mixture to 165°F, then refrigerate.

Cook. 

Food is safely cooked when it reaches a high enough internal temperature to kill the

harmful bacteria that cause illness. Cook your turkey to a minimum of 165°F as measured with a food thermometer, including the stuffing.

The healthiest method is to prepare and cook the stuffing separately – outside the bird. Test the bird’s temp in the thickest part of the thigh, the breast, and the inside. Don’t let the tip of the thermometer rest against bone.

Potluck contributions. 

Remember to keep hot foods hot (135°F or higher) and cold foods cold (41°F or below). To help keep foods hot wrap dishes in foil, cover them in heavy towels, or put them in insulated containers designed to keep food hot.

For cold foods, put them in a cooler with ice or freezer packs, or use an insulated container with a cold pack so they remain at 41°F or lower, especially if traveling for more than half an hour.

Buffet, anyone? 

If you set up food in a buffet line, take care to put spoons in each dish for self-service, and assist children in filling their plates. No fingers allowed!

Wrap it up! 

Throw away all perishable foods, such as meat, poultry, eggs and casseroles, left at room temperature longer than two hours. Refrigerate or freeze other leftovers in shallow, air-tight containers and label with the date it was prepared. Reheat leftovers to 165°F.

Divide large amounts of leftovers into shallow containers for quicker cooling in the refrigerator. Keeping a constant refrigerator temperature of 41°F or below is one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of an at-home food-borne illness.

Eat cooked turkey and stuffing within 3-4 days and gravy in 1-2 days. Cooked turkey keeps up to 4 months in the freezer. Reheat leftovers to 165°F as measured with a food thermometer, and bring gravy and sauces to a boil before serving. Microwaved leftovers shouldn’t have cold spots (bacteria can survive). Cover food, stir and rotate for even cooking.

Following these food safety steps at your house will make the meal a happy memory for everyone. Happy, healthy holidays from the Snohomish Health District!

Additional resources:

Free kit

The Holiday Food Safety Success Kit at www.holidayfoodsafety.org provides food safety advice and meal planning in one convenient location.

The kit includes information on purchasing, thawing and cooking a turkey; a holiday planner with menus, timelines, and shopping lists; and dozens of delicious (and food-safe) recipes. ]

The kit also has arts and crafts activities and downloads for kids so they can join the holiday fun.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration

1-888-SAFEFOOD: For questions about safe handling of the many foods that go into a delicious holiday meal, including eggs, dairy, fresh produce and seafood.

Escherichia Coli_NIAID E Coli BacteriaNothing can ruin a party quite like food poisoning. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are 31 pathogens known to cause food-borne illness.

Every year there are an estimated 48 million cases of illness, 128,000 hospitalizations, and 3,000 deaths in the United States due to food-borne diseases.

Typical symptoms of food-borne illness are vomiting, diarrhea, and cramps which can start hours to days after contaminated food or drinks are consumed.

The symptoms usually are not long-lasting in healthy people—a few hours or a few days—and usually go away without medical treatment.

But food-borne illness can be severe and even life-threatening to anyone, especially those most at risk such as infants and young children, pregnant women, older adults, people with HIV/AIDS, cancer or any condition or medication that weakens the immune system.

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Federal shutdown alarms state health officials

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Photo: James Gathany/CDC

Photo: James Gathany/CDC

By Melissa Maynard
StatelineStaff Writer

This week more than 11,000 U.S. Muslims are expected to join millions of other pilgrims in Mecca for the annual Hajj pilgrimage. When the Americans return home, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state and local health departments will be watching for any sign of the MERS virus that has caused severe acute respiratory illness in 140 people since 2012, killing about half of them.

But because of the shutdown of the federal government, about 9,000 of the CDC’s 15,000 workers have been furloughed. James Blumenstock, chief of public health practice for the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, said states are concerned that the absence of those workers might slow down identification and response to MERS cases if the virus spreads to the U.S.

Since the shutdown, the CDC’s bi-weekly conference calls with state health officials to share new information about MERS and other emerging global threats have stopped, Blumenstock said. “Since Oct. 1, we have not scheduled one or had the opportunity to talk to anyone about scheduling the next one.”

MERS is just one of many possible public health risks state health officials are worried about handling without the full support of the CDC and other federal agencies. Another big one within U.S. borders is the flu season that began Oct. 1.

In a Wednesday conference call with state health officials from across the country, CDC Director Tom Frieden assured states that the agency would be available to assist in emergency situations, but acknowledged that its response might be slower because of the shutdown.

“We have been told that that if we needed support for a large-scale event, it would require pulling staff back in, and that the response time could be delayed,” said Wendy Braund, Wyoming’s state health officer. “That is a very real concern to us.”

CDC in the States

States rely on the CDC to step in when outbreaks cross state lines and for technical support and lab testing when unusual situations arise. The federal agency also helps fund and staff a range of programs, embedding its own experts in state health agencies to help with a range of programs from immunizations to AIDS prevention. Many of these people have been furloughed.

Also, certain public health functions rely heavily on federal grants, which will become more critical if the shutdown continues. Hawaii State Epidemiologist Sarah Park was handling multiple investigations when she learned that her work may be interrupted because her division gets 90 percent of its money from the federal government.

“Basically, toward the end of last week, it was realized that … the state had only sufficient federal funds drawn down to make the Oct 5th payroll,” she said in an email.

“If the federal shutdown doesn’t resolve soon,” she said, “we could be facing a major crisis whether because staff have to be laid off and/or because we aren’t able to place vaccine orders or have them completed because the federal system is down.”

CDC officials acknowledged the challenges the shutdown has created for its partners at the state level. “We’re actually really concerned about what is happening with the states, and down the road if this continues,” said John O’Connor of the CDC’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases.

Emergency Response

The CDC can call back employees to respond to emergencies, according to Barbara Reynolds, a CDC crisis communication specialist. For example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Monday issued a public health alert for an outbreak of an antibiotic-resistant strain of salmonella linked to chicken produced by Foster Farms in California.

The outbreak has sickened 278 consumers in 17 states. In response, the CDC called back two-thirds of the 30-person team that tracks foodborne illnesses. It has updated its website with details of its ongoing investigation into the outbreak, including a map detailing cases by state.

Still, Reynolds acknowledged it’s not the same as when the CDC is fully functioning. “We have 9,000 people from CDC furloughed, which means 9,000 fewer people to answer the phones and take phone calls from people in state agencies,” she  said. “Some of that collaboration is just gone right now.”

In Oregon, eight salmonella cases have been linked to the outbreak. Katrina Hedberg, the state’s chief epidemiologist and health officer, said the CDC’s national databases connected the salmonella strain to Foster Farms based on evidence from cases in other states. “Looking at our Oregon cases, it wouldn’t be obvious that they were linked,” she said.

But the state received less information than it would have from a fully functioning CDC. “Normally we’d be hearing about this before, and we’d be having conference calls beforehand,” she said. Instead, Hedberg said the general public learned about the outbreak only shortly after she and her staff did – and from the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service rather than the CDC.

Flu Season

One of the most significant looming public health threats is the flu. State health officials are concerned about how the shutdown will affect their ability to fight its spread, since they rely on the CDC to track and monitor cases to better prepare their public health response.

Michael Cooper, Alaska’s deputy state epidemiologist, said his department has received “a flurry of emails about how CDC influenza monitoring and surveillance staff would be at minimal levels and online applications might not be functional for recording data that demonstrates national/state activity related to influenza.”

Blumenstock, of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, said there are critical flu-related functions the CDC cannot currently perform because of the shutdown.

For example, at this point in the season, the CDC typically tests early flu strains to see how well they match with the seasonal vaccine. That information gives public health officials important clues about what to expect from flu season and how to adjust their strategies.

The CDC also conducts an annual public awareness campaign, tests early cases of the flu to determine resistance to antivirals and provides regular surveillance information to states.

Much of that assistance simply isn’t happening, Blumenstock said. “Depending on how bad flu season turns out to be, that could provide increased risk of illness or death if CDC doesn’t get back in business.”

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Stateline is a nonpartisan, nonprofit news service of the Pew Center on the States that provides daily reporting and analysis on trends in state policy.

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Fair season is here: win the blue ribbon for health and safety

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Rooster looking through the wires of a cage

From the Washington State Department of Health

Hanging out with the goats, poultry, and cows can be the highlight of any trip to the local fair. Yet fair animals can also spread certain diseases.

“Going to see the animals at the fair is a treasured tradition for many families,” said Ron Wohrle, public health veterinarian for the Department of Health. “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.”

Many kinds of animals can carry dangerous bacteria and viruses. The germs can be in their saliva, on their coats, and on surfaces contaminated by their waste. People can pick up those germs when they touch the animals or their surroundings. Most get sick by putting their hands or a contaminated object in their mouth or nose.

An estimated half-million people in the U.S. get sick every year because of a visit to animals at a fair, petting zoo, or other exhibit. Washington rules require signs warning people of the health risks, along with hand washing or sanitization stations near animal exhibits. Pregnant women, older adults, kids under five, and anyone who has an underlying illness should be especially careful to follow posted precautions.

Washing hands with running water and soap is the best way to avoid getting sick. It’s especially important after touching animals or their surroundings 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.

Stroller wheels can also pick up germs from animal areas and have been tied to illnesses in the past.

Call your health care provider immediately if someone in your family becomes sick after coming in contact with animals.

The Department of Health investigates cases and outbreaks of animal-related illnesses and works to make sure that places where animals are displayed follow state regulations. Information on staying healthy around animals is available online.

Photo courtesy of Christine Landis

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