Good on ya: National Zoo temporarily closes kids’ farm due to E. coli

The National Zoo says it’s had to temporarily close its Kids’ Farm exhibit—essentially a petting zoo—because of E. coli.

In a release issued on Monday afternoon, the Smithsonian facility explains that on Feb. 18, a “routine fecal screening process” for goats showed signs of the bacteria. Although the goats were then removed from public view, follow-up tests confirmed E. coli in four goats and one cow last Friday.

“Based on these results, the Kids’ Farm was immediately quarantined and staff started appropriate protective measures, including treating all the farm animals with antibiotics,” the zoo says. The exhibit will reopen after zoo vets get “three consecutive weeks of negative test results.”

“As most people know, E. coli is everywhere in our environment,” Brandie Smith, an associate director at the zoo, explains in the release. “Because it is so common, we routinely test our animals. It’s unfortunate that we have to close the Kids’ Farm temporarily, but we’re taking the right preventative measures for our guests, staff and the animals.”

A table of petting zoo outbreaks is available at

Best practices for planning events encouraging human-animal interactions

G. Erdozain , K. KuKanich , B. Chapman  and D. Powell. 2015. Zoonoses and Public Health 62:90-99.

Educational events encouraging human–animal interaction include the risk of zoonotic disease transmission. It is estimated that 14% of all disease in the US caused by Campylobacter spp., Cryptosporidium spp., Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) O157, non-O157 STECs, Listeria monocytogenes, nontyphoidal Salmonella enterica and Yersinia enterocolitica were attributable to animal contact. This article reviews best practices for organizing events where human–animal interactions are encouraged, with the objective of lowering the risk of zoonotic disease transmission.