Elizabeth S. Reames, Merrill, Thomas A., Nicholson, Steven S., Coolman, Denise, Agan, Cathy B.
As spring and summer picnics take the stage and outdoor activities swing into motion, LSU AgCenter experts say it’s important to remember the importance of good hygiene in preventing the spread of diseases.
One of the most important aspects of that is proper hand washing – particularly before eating but also in a variety of other situations.
"We have active educational programs, like our ‘Hooray for Hand Washing’ efforts, that try to teach people about ways they can avoid spreading or contracting diseases," said Dr. Rosalie Bivin, assistant vice chancellor in the LSU AgCenter. "For the past several years, we’ve also tried to stress hand washing at many of our events."
Hooray for Hand Washing is an interactive educational program that is used to teach adults and children about the importance of hand washing to prevent diseases. Information provided shows how to prevent the spread of infection by washing hands – particularly when it comes to such things as preparing food or after handling pets.
Bivin said the LSU AgCenter has been in the forefront when it comes to public safety and hygiene. Actions taken by the LSU AgCenter include providing waterless hand sanitizers at its activities. One example is the Ag Expo held each January in Monroe.
"Several people said they were very appreciative of the fact that we had hand-washing stations set up," said Cathy Agan, an LSU AgCenter agent in Monroe. "A lot of parents were happy we asked the children to wash their hands, because it reinforced what they were trying to teach the children."
Hand washing is especially important for people to use and avoid contracting E. coli, or Escherichia coli – the disease that’s been in the news recently because of an outbreak in Florida.
LSU AgCenter veterinarian Dr. Steve Nicholson said there are many types of E. coli that are commonly found in human and animal intestinal tracts. E. coli also can be found in soil and water.
"The specific type of E. coli that causes serious kidney disease in humans can be found in feces of cattle and other domestic animals, as well as wildlife," Nicholson said. "But most cattle and other types of animals do not have this type of the bacteria in their feces."
Dr. Beth Reames of the LSU AgCenter says to practice good personal hygiene, such as hand washing, to prevent contracting E. coli.
"Escherichia coli is a bacteria found in the intestinal tract of animals," Reames said. "There are many strains. Most are harmless, but some do cause disease."
At least four strains of E. coli cause gastrointestinal diseases. The diseases include infant diarrhea, traveler’s diarrhea, dysentery and severe bloody diarrhea and other life-threatening illnesses.
"Symptoms of E. coli include watery or bloody diarrhea, severe abdominal cramps and pain, vomiting and sometimes fever," Reames said. "In some cases, especially in children, kidney failure occurs, and blood clots in brain may form, particularly in elderly."
In addition to animals, other sources of E. coli are raw and undercooked ground beef, unpasteurized milk and apple cider/juice, imported cheeses, dry salami, lettuce and nonchlorinated water.
Although proper hand washing is important in reducing your chances of contracting E. coli, additional means of preventing illness include keeping refrigerator temperatures at 40 degrees F or lower, cooking foods to recommended temperatures and keeping hot foods hot and cold foods cold while serving them.
Rosalie Bivin at (225) 578-2467 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Beth Reames at (225) 578-3929 or email@example.com
Steve Nicholson at (225) 578-2414 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Cathy Agan at (318) 323-2251 or email@example.com
A. Denise Coolman at (318) 644-5865 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Tom Merrill at (225) 578-5896 or email@example.com