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 NJ departments of Health and 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 that animals can carry germs that cause illness in people, even if the animal appears healthy. 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.
“Some germs can be transmitted by touching or petting animals and then eating or touching your mouth,” said New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli. “Parents and caregivers should ensure that children and other family members who have had contact with farm animals wash their hands thoroughly and frequently. It’s also important for children to be supervised closely around animals for their own safety and to minimize unintentional hand-to-mouth contact.”
“We encourage everyone to visit our farms and 4-H fairs that host events for the public that may have livestock and other animals on display,” said New Jersey Department of Agriculture Secretary Douglas Fisher. “It’s essential to follow these important tips to stay safe as they enjoy these agricultural activities.”
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 didn’t 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, you should use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol and wash your hands with soap and running water as soon as you 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 can lead to serious injury if the animal bites, scratches, or kicks
• Do not bring baby or children’s items (such as toys, or pacifiers) into animal areas
• Children five 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 of the states in the nation, including New Jersey, the sale of raw milk directly to consumers is illegal. More information on the health risks of raw milk can be found at: cdc.gov/foodsafety/rawmilk/raw-milk-questions-and-answers.html
Prevent kicks and bites:
• Be cautious around farm animals
• Do not stand directly behind or approach a farm animal from the rear
• If bitten by an animal, thoroughly wash the bite and seek medical care
Prevent tick and mosquito bites:
• Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents. Find the right insect repellent by using the EPA’s search tool (epa.gov/insect-repellents/find-repellent-right-you)
• 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 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. Follow the CDC’s Tick Bite Fact Sheet (cdc.gov/ticks/pdfs/FS_TickBite-508.pdf)
• 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.
Many educational farm and county fair opportunities are available throughout New Jersey this spring and summer. The Departments of Health and Agriculture encourage residents to always be safe around farm animals. Information on available activities can be found atstate.nj.us/nj/about/garden
Those 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.