So far, 12 children have been hospitalised in England after an outbreak of at the farm. The children, aged between 18 months and 10 years, E. coli O157:H7 contracted E. coli after visiting Godstone Farm near Redhill, Surrey, in southern England. Health officials believe 36 cases of the illness, which can lead to kidney failure and be fatal, are linked to the farm since the outbreak was traced in August.
A single cow produces about 30 kilograms (66 pounds) of manure per day. Each gram of manure can contain ten million (10,000,000) fecal coliform organisms. This means that a cow can produce about three hundred billion (300,000,000,000) fecal coliforms per day, which may include E. coli O157:H7 and other pathogens.
• Source control: Animals that are actively shedding human pathogens should not be exhibited in fairs and petting zoos. Effective screening tests are available, and can be used to identify infected animals and to prevent their entry into the fair environment. Eliminating infected animals from the fair environment would reduce the level of exposure, and would reduce the potential human health hazard.
• Effective manure management: Sanitary removal of animal manure, followed by sanitation of bins and traffic areas, is an essential part of an environmental control program.
• Dust control: If manure is not removed on a timely basis, it will be dried and subsequent air movement can result in airborne spread of dust, which could spread infectious agents onto surfaces. Contaminated surfaces can result in human illness, through hand to mouth transfer of pathogens.
• Clean up and sanitation: Sanitize all contact surfaces.
• Environmental sanitation: Prevent cross contamination of areas adjacent to animal holding areas, particularly food courts and drinking fountains. Venues should be designed to minimize the risk of cross-contamination. Farm animal contact areas should be separated from the food service area. Animal petting should be allowed only in the interaction area, under close supervision and coaching of visitors. Double barriers should be provided to prevent contact between animals and their environment, other than in the interaction area (MMWR Weekly, October, 2001).
• Hand washing and sanitation facilities: At each entrance and exit to animal holding areas and petting zoos, warn visitors of the potential risks and require visitors to wash and sanitize upon entry and exit to the areas. Hand washing facilities should be adequate: hand washing stations should be available in both the animal free area and the interaction area. An adequate number of hand washing facilities complete with soaps and disposable towels should be provided. The facilities should be accessible, sufficient for the maximum anticipated attendance, and designed for use by both children and adults. Communal basins should not be considered as adequate hand washing facilities (MMWR Weekly, October, 2001). “It’s In Your Hands: Animal Exhibits and Public Health”, a video about the importance of proper hand washing after attending animal exhibits, was produced by the Washington State University Extension Service in 2006. In conjunction with the video, the WSU Extension office and 4-H produced hand washing “tool kits”, which include materials for petting zoo operators (Washington State University Extension, 2006).
• Protocol for petting zoo and animal contact areas: Prevent the spread of germs to humans. The protocols could include elements such as allowing only gloved-hand contact with animals, frequent surface sanitation, and monitored hand washing and sanitation stations. Hand-to-mouth activities should be prohibited: eating, drinking, smoking, carrying toys and pacifiers, or any hand-to-mouth activities should be strictly prohibited in the interaction area (MMWR Weekly, October, 2001).
• Information should be provided: Wherever situations arise where there is public access to farm animals, information about the risk associated with the transmission of pathogens should be provided to visitors. An effort should be made to ensure that the visitors are completely aware of the fact that animals such as calves, young ruminant animals, young poultry, and all ill animals can pose a threat to human health (MMWR Weekly, October, 2001).
• Heightened precautions should be applied to high-risk groups: Children under age 5, people with weakened immune systems, and pregnant women fall in the category of high-risk for serious infection, and hence should strictly follow all the precautions enforced in the animal contact area (MMWR Weekly, October, 2001).