People who visit livestock shows at the 2012 N.C. State Fair will see changes in pedestrian and animal traffic patterns designed to minimize health risks. The change come as a result of lessons learned in 2011.
During the 2011 N.C. State Fair some 25 attendees were sickened by E. coli O157:H7. The disease is sometimes present in the feces of cows, sheep and goats. A state investigation determined the illnesses could be linked to the Kelley Building, which housed sheep, goats and pigs competing in the fair’s livestock shows.
The traffic pattern changes were recommended by a multi-agency group set up by Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. The State Fair Study Commission recommended changes designed to keep people and competition livestock separated as much as practical without prohibiting people from seeing the livestock.
The recommended changes will be implemented in the Kelley Building, Jim Graham Building and the Expo Center and the areas around them, all buildings where livestock are shown or housed.
In addition, food vendors are being relocated from the area between the Graham Building and Expo Center. Instructional signs at animal exhibits will be larger. And hand-washing signs will have nighttime lighting and more signs to increase visibility.
“The changes put forth by the Study Commission are a practical and effective way to further reduce the potential for disease transmission – both animal-to-human and human-to-animal,” says Commissioner Steve Troxler. “They build upon protective measures already in place, and they reduce risks while maintaining the fair’s agricultural heritage.”
The fair will spend an estimated $206,000 to make these changes and for related projects.
Wake County Community Health Director Sue Lynn Ledford, a member of the study commission, said State Fair visitors can help themselves stay healthy by:
• Leaving strollers outside buildings containing animals.
• Following instructions on signs indicating animals that should not be touched.
• Using the hand-washing stations located throughout the fairgrounds.
• Helping children wash their hands well at the appropriate times.
“While hand sanitizers and hand wipes are easy to use, washing hands for 20 seconds with soap and water and drying them with clean paper towels is the best way to prevent the spread of germs that cause illness,” Ledford said. “Washing hands before you eat, every time you eat, greatly reduces the spread of disease. This is particularly important after visiting animal exhibits or being in direct contact with animals.”
The commission’s report is available online at www.ncagr.gov. Click on “Newsroom.”
The 2012 N.C. State Fair is scheduled for Oct. 11-21 at the State Fairgrounds.