Both studies also noted that a sizeable percentage of petting zoo visitors were also engaging in a number of other risky behaviors. The most common risky behavior observed by the South Carolina researchers was visitors bringing food or drink items into the petting zoo with them. In the Tennessee survey one in five visitors was observed eating or drinking in the petting zoo.
"Our petting zoo had a lot of signage warning of risk factors and people still brought in food and drink, failed to wash their hands and otherwise engaged in behaviors that put them at risk for infection," says Dan Drociuk, an author on the South Carolina survey.
Angulo notes that the lack of handwashing is not entirely the fault of the petting zoo visitors. "Most petting zoo visitors do not know that there is a risk and are not informed that there is a risk. Signs do not work. People need to be told by another human being to wash their hands."
To help address the risks associated with petting zoos, the CDC has entered a partnership with the National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians to develop a compendium of measures to prevent disease associated with animals in public settings. The compendium, which includes specific recommendations for managing contact between animals and people visiting a petting zoo environment, is published annually in the CDC publication Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The 2005 compendium can be found online at http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/rr5404a1.htm. The 2006 compendium will be published later this year.