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July 01, 2005

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Publication Date: Friday, July 01, 2005

Going to the Fair - have fun, be careful Going to the Fair - have fun, be careful (July 01, 2005)

Wash hands after touching animals

By Carol Bogart

Visitors to the Fair can't miss the signs in the animal tents: Don't feed or touch the animals. Hard to keep kids from petting friendly goats, though.

4-H leader Brenda Robbins helps out in the Barnyard, an exhibit near the Action Zone where new lambs may be born any moment. She said the signs are up because of recent E. coli outbreaks in other states that have been linked to petting zoos and fairs.

Health officials say E. coli (Escherichia coli), a bacteria sometimes found in undercooked ground beef and in the feces of farm animals - especially cows - may cause five to 10 days of severe bloody or watery diarrhea, cramps, nausea and vomiting. Those at risk include pregnant women, children under five, people who have compromised immune systems and the elderly. Small children and frail elderly are also at risk of a potentially fatal complication that involves the kidneys.

In a memo to California Fair operators, the state Department of Food & Agriculture wrote: "In response to the recent E. coli outbreak in Florida, the California Department of Food & Agriculture's Division of Fairs and Expositions has released a set of guidelines for disease prevention."

The memo to fairs from the Ag department continued: "All California fairs must have hand-washing stations in both the petting zoo and animal exhibit/livestock areas. Proper signage (bi-lingual) is also vital throughout the animal exhibit areas. Providing signage for food concessionaires to display in concession areas reminding Fair guests to wash their hands prior to eating or drinking is recommended."

Fair spokesperson April Mitchell says that in addition to the signs, the Alameda County Fair has put in 15 new handwashing stations this year that are located in or near areas where animals can be petted.

The Ag Dept.'s memo states that a full version of the Center for Disease Control's Compendium of Measures to Prevent Disease Associated with Animals in Public Settings, 2005, provides the complete guidelines for events with animal exhibits and is available on-line at

Those guidelines state, in part, "No food or beverages should be allowed in animal areas." It also warns against smoking, carrying toys, pacifiers, spill-proof cups ("sippy cups"), and baby bottles. Parents should help small children with thorough handwashing when they leave animal areas.

Meantime, though, the Fair's just as much fun as always - with daredevil maneuvers in the Action Zone by BMXers, skateboarders and in-line skaters; little kids doing their level best to pull their own weight or more pedaling miniature tractors; the usual assortment of midway games and rides; homespun contests like who can produce the best quilted square; breathtaking garden exhibits; traditional food like funnel cakes and more.

In 2002, the Alameda County Fair contributed nearly $196-million in economic impact to the county, created almost 2,000 temporary jobs and generated over $3-million in local tax revenue, according to the Agriculture Dept. Receiving no money from the general fund, the Fair is paid for through a licensing fee on bets made on horse racing.

Pari-mutuel wagering on horse racing at the Fair, made legal in 1933, supports not only the Alameda County Fair, but fairs throughout the state. Part of the money wagered in 2002 - $222,119 - was paid to Pleasanton for services provided to the facility. That year, a survey of Fair attendees found that 96 percent agreed the Fair provides worthwhile community benefits and offers a link between urban and rural California.

The Fair continues through July 10. For a daily schedule of entertainment and events, hours and prices visit

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