A Petting Zoo in RI is Making People Sick. Here’s Why—and How to Prevent It

A goat (and/or poor hygiene) may have been responsible.

David Goehring on Flickr

The state of Rhode Island has, according to the Associated Press, placed a quarantine on a petting zoo on a farm in Middletown.

The Providence Journal reports that three people were sickened with cryptosporidiosis, sometimes known as crypto, after visiting the petting zoo at Simmons Farm, a recreational and commercial farm. On its website, Simmons Farm noted that its farm stand and petting zoo would be closed over the weekend of the 14th; the quarantine was placed after that.

Crypto is a disease caused by a parasite; it is well-known and well-documented. The most common symptom is diarrhea, which can range in severity depending on the patient’s age and health status; it is often not very serious, but can be deadly for those whose immune systems are compromised (due to HIV/AIDS, for example).

The method of transmission is also quite well understood: it’s all about feces. (Fun!) Crypto is passed through the feces of an infected organism, and can be contracted if swallowed by another person or animal. This doesn’t necessarily mean, like, you have to eat poop: it’s often transferred through unfiltered water, unwashed root vegetables, parents changing baby diapers, that kind of thing.

It’s not exactly clear how those infected at Simmons Farm contracted crypto, though a state veterinarian told the Providence Journal that “very common-sense practices like washing hands after handling animals go a very long way to preventing these incidents,” which sort of suggests that the people involved might not have washed their hands very carefully. In any case, crypto is highly treatable with a course of anti-parasitic drugs.

So how do you avoid getting crypto? Most importantly, yes, wash your hands, and wash anything that might have touched feces. Petting zoos, strangely enough, make a lot of sense as vectors for crypto; there are not all that many places where humans touch non-pet animals. (Also: Boiling unfiltered water is a pretty foolproof way to prevent contracting crypto from drinking water.)

Be safe at those zoos!

A Petting Zoo in RI is Making People Sick. Here’s Why—and How to Prevent It