Fair and Petting Zoo Safety

A resource for fair and petty zoo legal cases and outbreak prevention, sponsored by Marler Clark

2001 Ozaukee County, Wisconsin, Fair E. coli Outbreak

The Ozaukee County Public Health Department and Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services (2001) investigated an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 associated with animals at the Ozaukee County Fair in August, 2001. A total of 59 E. coli O157:H7 cases were identified in this outbreak, with 25 laboratory confirmed cases (25 “primary cases” and 34 probable cases). Bacteriological testing of water at the Ozaukee County fairgrounds and the Fireman’s park did not indicate presence of E. coli O157:H7, though 10 of the 36 samples collected from the Ozaukee County Property showed elevated levels of total coliforms. The environmental investigation focused primarily on testing water samples from the livestock buildings, livestock washing stations, runoffs from settling basin, grass filter strip, manure storage area, fishing pond, and streams. A total of 19 surface water samples, and 8 sediment samples, were collected from the pond and stream on the fairgrounds property. All tested negative for E. coli O157:H7.  Public health officials attributed the outbreak to animal contact in the petting zoo at the county fair (Cole et al, 2001).

As a consequence of this outbreak, the Wisconsin Division of Public Health, Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, and the Dane County Division of Public Health developed a list of voluntary guidelines for animal exhibitions at Wisconsin. The general precautions for livestock on public displays included providing hand-washing stations at strategic places around livestock barns, and posting signs encouraging their use. Actions included developing and implementing manure collection, handling, and storage procedures. It was recommended that runoffs into places where water was pulled be avoided.  A written policy should be developed on handling animal bites and should be discussed with the corresponding county fair health authorities. Visitors should be prohibited from being in contact with baby animals, including newborns, if an animal birthing display is available. The recommendations regarding the food and hygiene practices included keeping food and beverage service away from the livestock, providing adequate hand washing facilities, and encouraging their usage. The guidelines also recommended keeping of records of all the vendors, vendor locations, and schedule of events.