On one hand, petting zoos may be fun and a good way for children to learn and play but on the other, they may represent a breeding ground for bacteria that can cause severe gastrointestinal illness.
A new study shows that many of the adult zoo visitors aren’t aware of their risky behavior and are therefore predisposed to catching infections.
Anything that has been in contact with animal feces, animals, surfaces that people touched, eating while petting animals represent a way to come into a contact with different bacteria. Animal feces carried home on shoes may also lead to a bacterial infection.
Things became worrying when E. coli outbreaks sickened over 34 people at two Florida zoos. Studies and interviews were conducted among those people who got and sick and among those who haven’t in order to try to find which were risky the behaviours that led to infections.
The risky behaviors included feeding cows or goats, touching them and having manure on their shoes as well as drying hands on clothes after washing them at the zoo.
Those people who washed their hands when leaving the zoo and then again before meals managed to avoid catching infections.
Other study observed 227 people and their behaviours in a zoo. The zoo had all the signs about proper behaviour, about not bringing food and feeding the animals and toilettes were very well equipped with stationeries. However, people still engaged in risky behaviors. Twenty eight percent of them didn’t wash their hands on the way out, they were bringing food into the area, picking things off the ground, touching animals, touching their faces, etc. All of these situations could easily lead to catching bacteria.
The conclusion was made that people as well as zoo operators need to be educated that certain things they do in the zoo represent direct exposure to pathogens.