Smithsonian Petting Zoo Closed Due to E. coli Contamination

Smithsonian Petting Zoo Closed Due to E. coli Contamination
Image: Pixabay
March 3, 2016

An E. coli scare has prompted an exhibit in the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, D.C. to temporarily close its doors.

Veterinarians discovered the E. coli shiga toxin 1 gene bacteria in goats in the Kids' Farm exhibit, which is effectively a petting zoo. No staff or animals have shown signs of sickness, but the goats were quarantined away from other animals. Subsequent in-depth testing revealed that four goats and one cow were positive for the bacteria.

The positive test resulted in the February 26 closing of the exhibit. All farm animals are undergoing antibiotic treatments, as prescribed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the Washington D.C. Department of Health.

"As most people know, E. coli is everywhere in our environment," Brandi Smith, associate director of animal care sciences, said in a statement. "Because it is so common, we routinely test our animals. It's unfortunate that we have to close the Kids' Farm temporarily, but we're taking the right preventative measures for our guests, staff, and the animals."

Zoo veterinarians will continue monitor the animals the health of the animals. After three consecutive weeks of negative tests, a plan for reopening the exhibit will be put in place.

E. coli outbreaks at petting zoos are not rare. In the summer of 2012, more than 100 people were sickened and one child died in connection with infections stemming from the Cleveland County Fair in North Carolina.