Global Handwashing Day
Why It's Important

Practicing Global Handwashing Day at the Zoo


“Wash your hands.”

It’s a phrase we’ve heard since childhood. Our parents, school, work, doctors and the CDC during the COVID-19 Pandemic – we’ve always been told it’s important to wash our hands. But why? Because handwashing is one of the best ways to protect yourself and others from getting sick.

According to the CDC, many germs, diseases and conditions are spread by not washing hands properly with soap and clean, running water.

But did you know, that you can also spread the same germs and disease to animals? This is called “reverse zoonosis.” Reverse zoonosis can pose a severe threat to the health of the animals affected as well as public health.

We spoke with the Zoo’s Vice President of Veterinary Services, Dr. Jeff Proudfoot, about the best practices to prevent spreading germs and disease to animals and eventually other humans. Dr. Proudfoot suggested that guests should think about washing their hands more than once.

“Although historically we focused on visitors washing their hands after an animal interaction,” said Dr. Proudfoot. “However we recommended washing hands before and after an animal interaction during the pandemic.  Not knowing if or how susceptible animals might be to the virus.”

The Indianapolis Zoo offers guests unique opportunities to interact up close with our animals. Including our dogfish shark & sting ray touch pool, giraffe/flamingo/budgie/lorikeet feeds, and kangaroo crossing. Zoo staff always encourages guests to wash or sanitize their hands after their interaction. You would think it’s common sense to wash your hands after touching and/or feeding an animal, but our vet team says it happens less often that we would think. Which is why they are pushing the message to always be mindful of the health of yourself, others and our animals.

“I believe washing hands is likely to be beneficial to our animals especially if visitors are handling of feeding the animals,” said Dr. Proudfoot. “Hand washing is definitely helpful in preventing our visitors from becoming ill from diseases the animals may be carrying such as E. Coli or Salmonella.”

Washing your hands is super easy. You can perform proper handwashing technique by following these five steps every time.

  1. Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  4. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  5. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

You can learn more about proper hand washing guidelines by visiting the CDC website here.


WATCH our educational video on practicing proper hand washing guidelines here at the Zoo.

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