20 seconds of scrubbing now can save you uncomfortable hours in the restroom later.
Tanner Burnside, Bear River Health Department
As spring approaches, families, field trip organizers, or youth groups may be planning to visit events with baby animals. There is something profoundly wonderful about holding a baby animal. The last couple of years have been hard on everyone. What could be better than making some new happy memories with some brand-new animals we love to snuggle and cuddle?
While they may be cute and cuddly, many of the same animals we visit at a petting zoo, keep around farms, or that live in our homes play host to germs that make us sick. Every spring, the health department sees an increase in diseases spread by animals. Some of these illnesses are preventable with some basic but easy-to-forget steps. We recommend getting out there this year, visiting those adorable little animals, picking up a few more chickens for your coop, or adopting that new pet, but we also recommend taking a few measures to help keep you and your family safe from disease.
Over the last two years, many parents have adopted carrying a bottle of hand sanitizer with them everywhere they take their kids. We love to see those little bottles! Easily available, hand sanitizer is very effective at killing many of the germs we regularly come in contact with. However, it is important to note that hand sanitizer does not kill every germ that causes sickness.
Particularly when we come in contact with animals, hand sanitizer is no substitute for good old-fashioned hand washing with soap and water. Some common germs, like Cryptosporidium that causes mild to serious illness, are carried by many types of animals, and are not affected by hand sanitizer. When transitioning from interacting with animals to other activities like eating or preparing food, remember to wash your hands with soap and clean water. If you have children, make sure you observe them while they wash. Help them thoroughly clean those little fingers. Twenty seconds of scrubbing now can save you or your loved ones from uncomfortable hours in the restroom later.
Once you have mastered handwashing, remember that your hands are only one of the places where you carry germs. Take a moment to consider your level of exposure to animals and the germs they can carry. Please consider if any extra steps are appropriate for you to reduce risk of illness.
Some ideas include:
• If you have children under age 5, remember they are more likely to get sick than an older child or an adult. Keep bottles, sippy cups, and treat containers in clean spaces separated from animals. Be mindful that young children are more likely to ingest microbes on the surfaces of objects within their reach, so disinfect them thoroughly.
• If you chaperone a field trip or tour of a farm or dairy, make sure you plan to wash your hands between touring the facility and eating.
• If you keep animals around your property, leave the shoes or gloves you wear outside when you enter your home. Remember that anything that touches you or your clothing will come with you into your house unless you remove it before entering.
• If you live on a farm or visit events with animal products for sale, remember that raw or unpasteurized dairy products can carry many of the germs that cause disease. We recommend you avoid them entirely if possible.
As the cold winter months give way to warmer temperatures, good memories are waiting to be made with activities that are great for you and your family. If you make sure to wash your hands and take appropriate steps that suit your lifestyle, you may save yourself from spoiling some of those memories by getting sick.