A recent Cryptosporidium outbreak in Oneida County may be associated with a Farmfest event. With lots of summer events planned that include animals, farm and petting zoo hosts need to take care to help prevent illness resulting from such events. While this recent outbreak was the result of Cryptosporidium, there are several other micro-organisms that can also be associated with events such as these.
While not all types of animals carry forms of Crypto that make humans sick, those that do are commonly found at petting zoos and fairs: calves, lambs, baby goats, chickens, etc.
Cryptosporidium is a one-celled microscopic animal that generally lives in the intestinal cells of its “host”. It is very common and is the leading cause of death of children worldwide (especially in third-world countries). There were 6.6-11.6 thousand reported cases in 2006-2008 for children ages 1-9 and 400 cases reported in New York State last year. It is considered to be a water-borne illness and is most common from the early months of summer through the early fall.
It is a common parasite of vertebrate animals, especially the young with young calves between 9 and 14 days of age being the most infected. The main symptom is watery diarrhea that lasts 1-2 weeks. Most commonly the person/animal will get over it without treatment. However, those with low immunity can become chronically ill.
The route of transmission is “fecal-oral”. Crypto is passed in the feces and when ingested at a certain stage (eaten, drank, or inhaled) then the new host gets infected with the parasite. Once ingested, the Oocyte hatches in the intestine and infects cell (s) there and divide and multiply. That causes the host to have fluid loss, mal-absorption, and can become dehydrated, malnourished, and possibly death.
There is no cure, although treatment with Nitazoxanide has been used to reduce symptoms in infants and AIDS patients. Not much will kill to Oosites, UV light is best. So the best method of control is prevention.
Most people who get infected do so through direct contact with infected people or animals, poor hygiene, changing diapers, handling animals at petting zoos, and exposure to water (both drinking and recreational bathing) or food contaminated with feces of infected people/animals.
While the best way to prevent contracting Crypto is to avoid risk by not touching animals or water that could be infected…there are other ways to reduce the risk. Hand washing for at least 20 seconds with soap and water and drying with clean papers towels is one of the best. Not eating food in exhibit areas, is another.
Businesses or organizations can set up the animal area so there is an entrance and exit with a monitored hand washing station at the exit. Children should be chaperoned to make sure they do not put their fingers in their mouths after handling animals or touching the ground. There should be ample signage reminding visitors of the risk and the need for thorough caution. If the event or activity involves “You Pick” or food events with a petting zoo, clients should be encouraged to eat or “pick” prior to visiting the animals
While useful in some situations, alcohol hand gels are not very effective with crypto. Therefore, hand washing stations should be used instead.