Vet school doesn’t leave much time for extracurricular activities (especially during second year classes), but I try my best to stay relatively well rounded throughout these four years of academic boot camp. One of my favorite weekend activities is Cat town, a tailgating area near the football stadium here at K-State. (Doug talked about it yesterday) Each home football game has a different Vet med-associated club volunteer to help serve food at Cat town, and yesterday’s game against Tennessee Tech was CVMF’s day (Christian Veterinary Medical Fellowship). As a CVMF member, I helped to set up and serve lunch to the tailgaters. In typical vet student fashion, some brought their pets to the event. One of my classmates has two beautiful black-capped caiques that are always a big hit at Vet med events, and we had them strategically placed at the t-shirt selling booth to attract people to support the second year class.
Now to defend myself, when serving I wore my food-serving plastic gloves in aseptic fashion. I didn’t touch my face with my fingers or sneeze into my hands. I wish there would’ve been hand sanitizer available before I put my gloves on, because serving food hygienically involves a combination of good hand washing and regular glove changes. We only had one server touching food directly (handing out burger buns) and everyone else used a utensil such as a spoon, knife or tongs to serve food along with gloves. During the slower parts of the afternoon, I would take breaks to chat with people and often drift over to see the birds, Monty and Apple (right). They are very charming little creatures, so I took full advantage of holding them and kissing them (glove-free).
Lo and behold, who shows up to Cat town but my food-safety boss Doug Powell. He eyes my classmate and I suspiciously as we hold the birds on our fingers and give them kisses on the beak, all while enjoying burgers and cake (pretty much doing everything the CDC recommends avoiding). Amy and Sorenne got an especially close look at the birds. In the background Doug said, “Keep that Salmonella factory away from my baby.” There’s the Doug I know, always thinking about the potential pathogens.
Later in the afternoon I chatted with my classmate about her food safety practices with the birds. She goes on to tell me that she frequently consumes food around her birds, and has never had any sickness in the past that could be related to the birds. While feeding the birds potatoes salad from her own fork, she tells me that she may have gotten Salmonella from them in the past, but she’s been around them so much that her body may have developed a tolerance to the bacterium. She has never has them tested to see if they carry Salmonella in their feces, though most birds do.
I’m thankful that my classmate has never had any sickness related to her birds, but that may not be the case for the rest of the nation. The young, elderly and other immunocompromised individuals are most likely to contract a zoonotic disease when handling pets. Practicing good food safety habits such as washing your hands thoroughly and cooking your meat to the proper temperature can help reduce the risk of food borne disease. Also, don’t kiss animals to allow them to lick your face, especially not in front of your boss.