Fair safety steps can prevent disease spread to animals and humans

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LINCOLN, Neb. – County and state fairs are an enjoyable activity for many people across the country. A few simple steps can prevent the spread of livestock diseases, which can be economically devastating to the livestock industry and occasionally dangerous to human health.

“The recent media attention on outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease in the United Kingdom and pseudorabies in Nebraska reminds us of the costly consequences of livestock disease,” said Rosemarie Nold, University of Nebraska youth specialist in animal science.

“Most livestock diseases, including foot-and-mouth and pseudorabies, do not present direct risks to humans, but humans can play an important role in spreading the diseases to other herds through attendance at fairs. Also, a few diseases such as club lamb fungus, salmonellosis and E. coli may have significant health risks to humans.”

Precautions. Fair exhibitors can play an important role in preventing the spread of livestock diseases with a few simple precautions, Nold said.

* Do not exhibit animals that have clinical signs of contagious disease.

* Have all exhibited animals checked by a veterinarian, and obtain health certificates for the animals prior to the fair.

* Do not share equipment among exhibitors, unless it is disinfected between uses.

Ringworm and club lamb fungus spread easily through contaminated clippers. Other diseases can be spread through shared feeding and watering equipment.

* When handling animals that are actively infected with ringworm or club lamb fungus, wear rubber gloves and wash hands and gloves with detergent soap after handling.

* Change or wash clothing and shoes worn at the fair before returning home to work with other animals at home.

* Isolate animals that you take home for a minimum of 14 days before reintroducing them to the herd. This allows any signs of disease to appear before the animal has a chance to infect the rest of the herd.

* When disease transmission is a concern, seriously consider selling the animal for harvest at the end of the fair.

Disease prevention. Fair visitors also can do their part to keep the fair safe for humans and livestock. The following guidelines will help prevent human illness and reduce the chance of animal to animal disease spread.

* Do not touch or pet animals, except in designated petting exhibits.

* Wash your hands after any direct contact with animals.

* Avoid eating in animal exhibit areas.

* Do not feed human food to animals.

“Fair exhibitors should discourage visitors from petting animals and let them know that they should wash their hands if they do have contact with the animals,” Nold said.

“Livestock disease outbreaks could be economically devastating to a state like Nebraska, which derives a large portion of its income from the livestock industry. Everyone should do their part to ensure that humans and animals are not put in danger by these diseases.”

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