GILLETTE, Wyo. — With warmer weather finally arriving, the Wyoming Department of Health wants residents to enjoy favorite activities while also avoiding certain illnesses often linked with summer fun.
“If not done safely, many warm-weather activities can sometimes cause unpleasant stomach-related symptoms and occasionally serious illness,” said Courtney Tillman, epidemiologist with the WDH.
Diseases such as cryptosporidiosis, giardiasis and shigellosis are diarrheal illnesses caused by swallowing water from pools or outdoor sources contaminated with animal or human feces. These illnesses, along with salmonellosis, campylobacteriosis and E. coli–related illnesses, can also result from direct contact with animals or their feces during animal-related activities such as brandings or petting zoos.
Matt Peterson, another WDH epidemiologist, said, “Every spring in Wyoming, we begin seeing new cases of salmonellosis linked to backyard poultry.”
Most of these cases occur in children under five who have touched or held baby poultry in ranch supply stores or whose family has recently acquired baby poultry. Young children are more likely to get sick with salmonella because their immune systems are still developing and they are more likely to put their fingers or other items with germs into their mouths, according to a news release from the WDH.
“Do not let young children touch live poultry, including chicks and ducklings, or touch anything in the area where the birds live and roam,” Peterson said. “Backyard poultry can have salmonella germs in their poop and on their bodies even when they look healthy and clean. The germs spread easily to their cages, coops, hay, plants and soil in the areas they live and roam.”
Tillman added, “You should always wash your hands after coming into contact with animals or their habitats. It’s best to clean hands with running water and soap. If you can’t immediately access running water and soap, use hand sanitizer until you’re able to wash your hands.”
“Water sources and animals may look clean, but can still be contaminated,” Tillman said.
The WDH recommends simple things people can do to help protect ourselves and others:
- DO stay out of the water if sick with diarrhea.
- DO shower before getting in the water. When chlorine mixes with dirt, sweat, pee and poop, there is less chlorine available to kill germs.
- DO take kids on bathroom breaks or check diapers every hour. Change diapers away from the water to keep germs from getting in.
- DO dry ears thoroughly with a towel after getting out of the water.
- DO boil or use a filter or solution designed to remove germs from streams, rivers and lakes before drinking.
- DO wash hands thoroughly after coming into contact with animals and their habitats, before preparing food and before eating and drinking.
Actions to avoid include:
- DON’T swallow swimming water and avoid getting water in the mouth.
- DON’T poop or pee in swimming water.
- DON’T sit or stand on jets at splash pads. Sitting or standing on jets can rinse poop off butts.
- DON’T let children kiss animals or put objects in their mouths after touching animals.
- DON’T touch wild animals or their carcasses. If concerned about a wild animal or animal carcass, contact your local animal control office.