Each year, thousands of visitors enjoy fairs and festivals through West Virginia. Many of these events provide opportunities for the public to interact with several varieties of domestic animal species (horses, pigs, cows, chickens, goats, etc.). Public interaction with animals in these settings can be educational and exciting, particularly for young children; however, it is very important to be aware of the very real potential for disease transmission from animals to people.
Some diseases that affect animals are diseases that can also cause illness in human beings; examples include salmonellosis, E. coli H7:O147, rabies, and influenza. Some of these illnesses cause no obvious symptoms in animals yet can produce infections in human beings that can range from no symptoms to severe, life-threatening disease. Elderly persons, very young children, and persons with underlying illnesses are at increased risk of becoming severely ill after contact with an infected animal.
The National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians (NASPHV) produces the “Animals in Public Settings” guideline each year to provide information about how to prevent human illness associated with animal exposures occurring in public settings. Additionally, the West Virginia Department of Agriculture provides information related to the connection between animal and human health.