SALEM – Food, rides and the petting zoo are always big hits at the Oregon State Fair, but another attraction is getting plenty of visitors this year – the hand-washing station.
Located at the exit to the zoo, an 18-foot trailer equipped with six sinks had people lined out the door this weekend. Inside, children doused their hands with powder before washing them and placing them under a blacklight lamp.
The light showed whether the person had cleaned thoroughly enough to wash off all the powder.
“That was fun,” Jordan Mulholland, 7, of Portland said after scrubbing her hands and displaying them under the glow.
The Marion County Health Department set up the station to educate people about the importance of washing hands, said Bob Anderson, a public health officer.
The drive for more thorough washing follows several E. coli outbreaks linked to county and state fairs. Three summers ago, 82 people got sick at the Lane County Fair, the largest such outbreak in state history.
In Clark County, Wash., this month, there were four confirmed cases of people suffering from symptoms of E. coli. Dr. Justin Denny, a health officer there, said the petting zoo was the likely source, and warned people to be diligent about washing their hands while attending fairs.
“People who are eating food or rubbing their faces, you’ve got to wash your hands thoroughly. It doesn’t take many organisms to spread the infection,” Denny said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people scrub their hands a full 20 seconds to clean off all bacteria after they touch animals, handle uncooked food or go to the bathroom. “The average person maybe washes between 7 to 10 seconds, if that. Or they simply rinse their hands,” Anderson said.
Health department volunteer Becky Aguilera asked kids to sing the ABCs or count to 20 while washing their hands.
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