College of American Pathologists
Printable Version

  Questions and Answers About
  Salmonella, Escherichia coli,
  and Animal Contact




Updated July 11, 2007

Aren't most cases of salmonella or Escherichia coli (E. coli) the result of poor food preparation?

Although most cases originate from using poor food preparation techniques, children visiting petting zoos or those who handle certain animals are also at risk for these diseases.


Animals, especially those that are young or ill, can carry salmonella, E. coli, or other common causes of diarrhea or stomach diseases in humans.

Who is most at risk?

People most at risk for contracting such diseases include infants, children under five years of age, pregnant women, and those with weakened immune systems.

How is salmonella usually transmitted?

Salmonella is most commonly transmitted from contact with reptiles, baby chicks and ducklings, but also can be passed on by dogs, cats, birds, horses, and other farm animals.

How can I prevent getting infected with salmonella?

The best way to avoid getting salmonella is to wash your hands and your children’s hands with running warm water and soap immediately after visiting a petting zoo or handling animals. In addition, avoid planning meals directly after visiting a petting zoo to further reduce the chance of contamination.

What are the symptoms of E. coli or salmonella?

Symptoms include:

  • Nausea
  • Severe stomach cramps
  • Watery or bloody diarrhea
  • Fever

If you or your children experience any of these symptoms, especially after visiting a petting zoo or handling animals, seek medical advice immediately