Objective—To assess the number of zoonotic disease outbreaks associated with animal exhibits and identify published recommendations for preventing zoonotic disease transmission from animals to people in exhibit settings.
Design—Literature review and survey of state public health veterinarians and state epidemiologists.
Procedure—MEDLINE and agriculture databases were searched from 1966 through 2000. Retrieved references and additional resources provided by the authors were reviewed. A survey was sent to state public health veterinarians and state epidemiologists to determine whether their states had written recommendations or guidelines for controlling zoonotic diseases in animal exhibition venues, whether their states maintained a listing of animal exhibitors in the state, and whether they had any information on recent outbreaks involving animals in exhibitions.
Results—11 published outbreaks were identified. These outbreaks occurred in a variety of settings including petting zoos, farms, and a zoological park. An additional episode involving exposure to a potentially rabid bear required extensive public health resources. A survey of state public health veterinarians identified 16 additional unpublished outbreaks or incidents. Most states did not have written recommendations or guidelines for controlling zoonotic diseases or any means to disseminate educational materials to animal exhibitors.
Conclusions—Recent outbreaks of zoonotic diseases associated with contact with animals in exhibition venues highlight concerns for disease transmission to public visitors. Only a handful of states have written guidelines for preventing zoonotic disease transmission in animal exhibition venues, and published recommendations currently available focus on preventing enteric diseases and largely do not address other zoonotic diseases or prevention of bite wounds. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2004;224:1105–1109)