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Petting zoos can transmit infections, officials warn

It's the start of the summer season and that means many families will be heading to fairs and festivals with petting zoos. And state health officials said people to remember that chicks, ducks, turtles and other animals can transmit salmonella, E. coli campylobacter and other bacteria, viruses and parasites.

Children in particular can become sick from cuddling these animals and their pets because they often put their hands in their mouths, health officials said.

The State Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and several states and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are now investigating several outbreaks related to animals.

They include 126 illnesses in 26 states related to live poultry. Two Maryland patients were infected but have recovered, health officials said. There also was a salmonella outbreak related to pet bearded dragons that was linked to 132 cases in 32 states. There were four cases in Maryland. A salmonella outbreak related to frozen feeder mice also sickened 37 people in 18 states, including one in Maryland.

"Baby animals are cute, but cuteness offers no protection from germs," Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, state health secretary, said in a statement. "Always be sure to wash hands thoroughly after handling pets or animals at petting zoos."

Much infections typically cause gastrointestinal troubles, such as diarrhea, vomiting, cramps, nausea and fever. Rarely they can cause death, according to the health department.
In addition to hand washing, officials recommend keeping the animals away from food preperation areas and avoiding avoiding animals if you are at high risk for infection complications.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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