Petting Zoos Are Filled With ‘Superbugs,’ Warn Scientists After 2-Year-Old’s Tragic Death

Goat at a petting zoo
Patryk Sobczak / Unsplash

New research, which was recently presented at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases in Amsterdam, showed the alarming presence of “superbugs” at many petting zoos, per USA Today.

As previously reported by The Inquisitr, a two-year-old boy died in June after visiting a petting zoo at the San Diego County Fair. Three other children were also unwell after visiting the petting zoo, but their illnesses were not considered life-threatening. The culprit was later found to be E. coli, a bacteria that resides in the stomach.

“We are devastated by this news, but we are moving forward and taking any precaution, the fair will continue until the Fourth of July,” San Diego County Fair CEO, Tim Fennell, said in a statement.

Part of the recent findings concluded that animals could share antibiotic-resistant strains of E. coli. The study consisted of 382 samples of feces, skin, fur and feathers from more than 200 animals living in eight petting zoos in Israel.

Of those animals, over 12 percent had at least one antibiotic-resistant strain of bacteria. And of that 12 percent, 25 percent had more than one antibiotic-resistant strain. Parasites other than E. coli include salmonella and cryptosporidium, a bacteria that causes gastrointestinal distress.

Though the results were in Israel, the Center for Disease Control estimated that between 2010 to 2015, there were over 100 examples of illnesses that could be traced to petting zoos, fairs and educational farms in the United States.

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baby black and white goat
  George Potter / Unsplash

Moreover, the recent tragedy is not the only fatality caused, or suspected of being caused, by diseases picked up at petting zoos. In 2016, a mother wrote on social media that her two-year-old child died after getting E. coli at the Indiana State Fair. A 20-month-old infant from Maine and a two-year-old child from North Carolina also died from E. coli, with the bacteria contracted from petting zoos in both instances.

The CDC offers several recommendations to keep children safe at petting zoos. First, it is strongly advised that visitors wash their hands — whether or not they come into contact with an animal. The CDC added that soap and water is best, but a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol is also effective. Other suggestions include not eating or drinking near the animals, leaving strollers, pacifiers, cups and other items outside of the zoo areas, making sure children do not put their fingers or objects such as pacifiers or sippy cups near an animal’s mouth, and for all children under five years old to avoid reptiles, amphibians and poultry, as those animals are more likely to pass on dangerous parasites.