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Take steps to enjoy animals safely this spring

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 6, 2015

Contact:  Jon Ebelt, Public Information Officer, DPHHS, (406) 444-0936

               Chuck Council, Communications Specialist, DPHHS, (406) 444-4391

Take steps to enjoy animals safely this spring

The site of a newborn lamb taking its first breath, or a chick pecking through its shell to explore a brand new world are annual events that capture the curiosity of all ages, but especially our youth.

That’s why the Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) and the Department of Livestock are collaborating again this year to help prevent illnesses transmitted from animals to humans.

“We encourage fun and safe interactions with animals,” said DPHHS epidemiologist Dana Fejes. “Connecting with animals allows children of all ages to have a thrilling experience and helps build an important human-animal bond.”

However, Fejes says that along with this experience, there is some risk. “Sometimes, even healthy animals can carry organisms that make people sick,” she said. Illnesses and outbreaks in Montana have been associated with livestock (cattle), live poultry (chicks) and reptiles (turtles, snakes). Young children and persons who have weakened immune systems are at greatest risk for infection and complications from illnesses caused by Salmonella, E. coli, but also influenza, rabies and others.

While animal companionship has many positive benefits for Montanans, there are a few simple prevention steps to remember:

  • Wash your hands after handling animals
  • Avoid touching your mouth after animal contact
  • Don’t eat or drink around animals
  • Don’t bring livestock into living areas
  • Supervise small children

 

“Together we can prevent illnesses and keep our children and communities healthy,” Fejes stressed. Please visit www.dphhs.mt.gov for guidance and more information.