As the weather gets warmer and New Jersey residents encounter more opportunities to interact with farm animals such as goats and alpacas at local farms, fairs, petting zoos and other animal exhibitions, the New Jersey Department of Health and the New Jersey Department of Agriculture are encouraging residents to take certain health and safety precautions.
While interacting with animals can be educational and fun, it is important to remember animals can carry germs that cause illness in people, even if the animal appears healthy, according to a press release.
All visitors should take a few basic precautions when interacting with animals. Children 5 years of age and younger, people with weakened immune systems, and adults over 65 years old are at higher risk of illness from germs carried by animals and should take extra precautions at animal exhibits, according to the press release.
Precautions everyone should take to stay healthy around farm animals:
Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water immediately:
• After touching farm animals or anything in the area where they live or roam;
• After handling animal food, supplies, bowls or equipment;
• After leaving animal areas, even if you did not touch the animals;
• Or after touching or removing clothes or shoes worn while around farm animals.
Running water and soap are best, but if they are not available, individuals should use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol and wash their hands with soap and running water as soon as they can.
Supervise children when they are around farm animals:
• Help children wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after interaction with farm animals;
• Prevent hand-to-mouth activities such as nail biting, finger sucking and eating dirt;
• Do not let children sit or play on the ground in animal areas;
• Do not let children stand behind animals, grab their tails, or put their fingers near an animal’s mouth as these actions can lead to serious injury if the animal bites, scratches, or kicks;
• Do not bring baby items or children’s items (such as toys or pacifiers) into animal areas;
• Children 5 years of age and younger should not have contact with reptiles, amphibians or live poultry because these animals are more likely to make them sick;
Do not eat food or drink beverages in areas where animals live or roam:
• Do not share your food with the animals, even if you think the food is part of the animal’s regular diet;
• Do not consume raw milk or soft cheeses and other products made from raw milk. In about half the states in the nation, including New Jersey, the sale of raw milk directly to consumers is illegal.
Prevent kicks and bites:
• Be cautious when around farm animals;
• Do not stand directly behind a farm animal or approach a farm animal from the rear;
• If you are bitten by an animal, thoroughly wash the bite and seek medical care.
Prevent tick and mosquito bites:
• Use U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents. Always follow the product label instructions and reapply as directed;
• If you are also using sunscreen, apply sunscreen first and repellent second;
• Wear light-colored long sleeves and pants tucked into socks to prevent ticks from getting under clothes;
• Shower after being outside to help find and wash off unattached ticks;
• Check your body and your child’s body for ticks. Make sure to look under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, on the back of the knees, in and around the hair, between the legs, and around the waist;
• If you find an attached tick, remove it right away using clean, fine-tipped tweezers. Grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible and pull upward with steady, even pressure. If you cannot remove the mouth easily with tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal. Clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.
• Seek medical attention following a known tick bite if you develop a rash, infection, or flu-like symptoms, or if you are unable to completely remove the tick.
Individuals who have traveled internationally, within the last five days, should not visit with livestock in order to prevent the unintentional spread of diseases to New Jersey farm animals, according to the press release.