WASHINGTON — It’s hands off the animals at a popular hands-on exhibit at the Smithsonian National Zoo.
All animals in the Kid’s Farm are off-limits after four goats and a cow tested positive for E. coli.
“In the interest of the safety of our guests, and our staff and our animals, the area is now under quarantine and will be closed,” said National Zoo spokeswoman Pamela Baker-Masson.
The zoo routinely tests the animals for E. coli. It was during a test on Feb. 18 that the bacteria, which can cause illness, was found in the droppings of two goats.
The goats were quarantined, and all the animals were tested on Feb. 22.
On Friday, test results showed that four goats and a cow tested positive, which lead to the immediate closure of the exhibit.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, E. coli bacteria lives in a person or animal’s intestines. While most types of the bacteria are harmless, some strains can lead to sickness. Those most at risk of developing an infection are children and adults with weak immune systems.
“The goats were shedding the bacteria, that’s how it came back positive to us but they are not symptomatic,” said Baker-Masson.
So far, no members of the zoo’s staff have become affected by the bacteria, according to Baker-Masson.
All the animals are being treated with antibiotics and the exhibit will remain closed until zoo keepers have three weeks of negative tests from the animals.
Baker-Masson said the popular destination at the zoo could remain closed for at least a month.