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Corn-mazes and Petting Farms Spread E. Coli to You and Your Kids: What You Can Do About it

Posted in E. coli,Food Safety,Our Blog on October 30, 2018

With Fall almost over, we can play Monday morning quarterback and take a look at what not to do next year. We’re still in the RedZone of this season, and this play will get you a goal if you practice it enough. You might be asking, “What skill is that?” Let me tell you, its an easy one, but it takes repetition and consistency to make it to the Pro’s of health.

Can you guess the skill? I bet you can. You’ve heard about it since you were young enough to play peewee ball. Do you need another clue? It’s about the tools you use every single day. Ready for the answer?

… Hand washing.

Don’t roll your eyes and switch back to social media browsing yet. I know you’ve been tackled with this information throughout your life. I’m sure you’re fatigued at the thought of hearing it again. But this time, I want to tell you about a surprising defeat in Utah, all because handwashing fumbled.

When you think of where to contract E. coli, I’m sure a food comes to mind. What if I told you a common Fall season activity passed the ball to contamination? Would you be surprised?

What if I told said that the activity was petting zoos? What if I also said another player was corn mazes? Yeah, that’s right. While you were getting your spook on, your hands dropped the ball. For every big-eyed farm animal that you pet, your body was sacked by bacterium.

It’s true. This October, Utah suffered an upset with an odd increase of E. coli cases that were linked back to the above-mentioned forays. One farm took this into account, and none of their patrons went home with a loss. Cross E. Ranch in North Salt Lake City saw the possibilities and took a defensive approach. The ranch set up handwashing stations and hand sanitizers around food and petting locations. Many other farms did not build up their offensive line with such maneuvers. This led to 20 cases of E. coli in one month.

Utah Department of Health epidemiologist Kenneth Davis said, “It’s about 50 percent increase than what we’re expecting.”

Let’s repeat that. That’s 50 percent more cases than the projected average of 113 per year, and 13 for October. Wrap your head around how big of a jump that is. It’s absolutely a block to healthy goals. If you’re a confused how to get E. coli from petting zoos, let me give you a dose of reality. It’s from the manure. Yes, animal feces. You might not see it on your hands, but that’s because bacterium isn’t generally visible. If it was, this would be a terrifying world to traverse. Imagine that. You’re calmly walking into your local grocery store and a giant bacterium is sitting on the shopping cart handle screaming at you. I’d bet you’d pass on the cart. You’d probably run out of the store as well. Whether you have a flight or flight response, I’m sure it would lie somewhere in the self-preservation scale. The same should hold true for those microscopic baddies.

Now, imagine by washing your hands you could ward off these monsters. Well, you don’t have to imagine. That’s reality.

So, why do you think corn mazes are the field for E. coli practice. The answer remains the same. Corn mazes are grown on farms. Where there are farms, there is livestock. Where there is livestock, there is manure. Where there is manure, there is bacterium. Where there is a lack of handwashing, there is illness. Are you catching the theme?

It’s not new. Let me take you back into the WebMD archives. Here you’ll find a report of 26 people that became contaminated by a strain of E. coli that causes hemolytic uremic syndrome. Six children suffered kidney failure. The source? Petting zoos.

So, have we learned anything since? Apparently not enough. As of October 25th 2018, twenty people contracted E. Coli from petting zoos and corn mazes, while six were hospitalized due to the infection. Sound familiar? That’s effect seems to be straight from the E. Coli playbook.

Can hand-washing protect you from every blitz? No, but its your best line of defense. E. Coli contamination is a hard hit. There’s a bit of delay of three to four days after the initial contact before you’ll feel the effects. Once that settles into your system, you can expect severe stomach cramps, bloody diarrhea and/or vomiting, fever, and in some cases much worse. Therefore, you need to visit a doctor if you’ve experienced any of these symptoms. In most cases, the illness will take the bench after five to seven days, but without diagnostic from a licensed professional there’s no way to know what your season looks like.

Remember, on your home turf or away game, you need to be suited up to play ball. No, you don’t need the elbow pads and the mouth guard; but you do need the right start, and a victory finish. Both can be achieved with a few seconds of your time.

So, what will you do if there’s two minutes left on the clock? Will you fumble due to a laziness? Will you risk your valuable body because you didn’t take proper precautions? I don’t think you will. I think you’re in it for the long-drive.

Treat you and your children like the MVP of life’s big game. Know your surroundings and learn how to evade the hard hits. Keep your body in tip-top shape and protect with the best tactics that science has taught us.

If that seems like a lot, just remember I’m only asking you to wash the feces off your hands. I think that is a point we can consider universally agreeable.

Now, if you’re done with the reading, you can get back to watching football. I’d like to leave you with one question, though. When exactly did you wash your hands last, and what have you touched since? Maybe, the TV remote control? How about your phone? Did you visit a petting zoo, farm, or corn-maze? What did you touch after that? You don’t have to tell me how long it’s been since your fingers were scrubbed thoroughly. To tell you the truth, I don’t really want to know. Just think it to yourself, and maybe go scrub when you are ready.

Happy Holidays,


Your friendly neighborhood hand-washing activist.

By: Heaven Bassett, Contributing Writer (Non-Lawyer)