The La Plata County Fair is fast approaching with the rabbit and horse shows kicking off Saturday.
There’s so much to see and enjoy. Personally, I always enjoy seeing the variety of prize animals that make their annual trek to town: pigs, chickens, turkeys, rabbits, cattle, goats and sheep. They are so beautiful and well cared for.
For many people, the fair might be the only time they can get a close-up view of these animals. This interaction allows people to learn more about the animals and build that all-important bond. Ask 4-H children about their animals and watch their faces light up.
Health and safety come in to play at the fair. Even though the animals are healthy, they are stressed and commingled in a small area. All animals carry zoonotic pathogens. These are germs that could be harmful to humans. People who are not typically around these germs (bacteria, viruses and parasites) can be more susceptible to them.
At particular risk are children younger than 5 who happen to be particularly attracted to the animals. Also at risk are older adults, pregnant women, infants and young children. Germs and skin pathogens can be contracted after petting an animal, bringing food or drink into the pavilion area where the animals are housed or just touching the railings or gates that have been contaminated.
In other words, even without direct contact, people can get sick. The simple solution is to be sure to wash your hands often and well. It is just that simple.
During your visit to the fair, frequent, adequate hand-washing is essential. Running water and soap is best, but you can use hand sanitizers until you get to the running water and soap. There are hand-washing areas around the fairgrounds – in the pavilion, the Exhibit Hall and the Extension Building. As a stopgap, there are sanitizer dispensers placed throughout the fairgrounds – thanks, Mercy Regional Medical Center. Washing hands is certainly the recommended practice.
Be sure to wash your hands when exiting animal areas, even if you did not touch an animal. If at all possible, keep food and drinks out of the animal areas and certainly do not share your food with animals. Prevent children from putting their thumbs, fingers or other objects (such as pacifiers) in their mouths while interacting with animals.
Caretakers of the animals are often busy removing animal waste to another area. This helps contain bug growth. Animals are washed frequently and cross airflow is another key item. This all contributes to seeing the variety of animals at their very best.
The fair will be held from Saturday to Aug. 10 at the fairgrounds, 2500 Main Ave. For a full schedule, visit www.co.laplata.co.us. See you there! Also, don’t forget open-class entries (from vegetables to quilts to collections) are due Wednesday morning.
firstname.lastname@example.org or 382-6461. Wendy Rice is family and consumer science agent for the La Plata County Extension Office.