17 sick with E. coli from petting area at Brisbane fair; handwashing or sanitizers never enough

With 17 sick from shiga-toxin producing E. coli linked to the animal area at the Queensland state fair, or Ekka, neighboring Gold Coast says they’re boosting hygiene for their fair that starts Friday.

royal.petting.zooBut it probably isn’t enough.

Queensland Health today confirmed that eight people have tested positive to STEC and another nine have reported symptoms.

Gold Coast Show marketing manager Leisa Martin says the usual precautions have been increased.

“This year in keeping with the guidelines from Queensland Health we have actually put in more of those stations than Queensland Health has advised in an effort to ensure the same unfortunate occurrence does not happen at our show,” she said.

“So of course after you have been near the animals use one of the hand sanitiser stations that are nearby.”

The U.K. and many scientists say hand sanitizers are sorta useless in the presence of an organic matter; handwashing with soap and vigorously running water, followed by drying with paper towel is recommended procedure.

But in several previous petting zoo outbreaks, handwashing was not a factor: bacterial can be present on many surfaces or even aerosolized.

Maybe those guidelines should be updated.

A table of petting zoo outbreaks is available at http://bites.ksu.edu/petting-zoos-outbreaks.