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Minnesota State Fair Ecoli Outbreak

Posted in E. coli,Our Blog,Outbreaks & Recalls on September 17, 2019

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) has announced the source of an Ecoli outbreak that has left 11 sick – 6 of which have been hospitalized and one who has developed hemolytic uremic syndrome.  Those who are ill have reported to have attended the fair between Aug. 25 and Sept. 2. Illnesses began between Aug. 29 and Sept. 6. One person remains hospitalized. Here’s everything we know about the Minnesota State Fair Ecoli Outbreak:

The Outbreak

According to the health agency’s announcement:

“MDH is working in partnership with fair officials to determine the source of the outbreak. Evidence gathered to date suggests that contact with livestock is the most likely factor. Most of the ill people reported visiting the Miracle of Birth exhibit and having contact with calves, goats, sheep or piglets. However, some cases did not have direct contact with animals and may have been exposed through contact with contaminated surfaces (e.g., fence rails). This serves as a strong reminder to always wash your hands after being around livestock and their enclosures.”

The agency’s laboratory tests of the bacteria indicate the E. coli O157 strains are closely related. Additional testing will be conducted to try to pinpoint the source or animal at the source of the infections.

Outbreak Likely Over, BUT Secondary Infections Possible

In a statement by MDH State Public Health Veterinarian Joni Scheftel, there was a concern for possible secondary infections.

“These infections can have serious health impacts and there is always a chance that an ill person can pass along the infection to others through close contact,” Scheftel said. “Anyone who believes they may have developed an E. coli O157 infection should contact their health care provider. E. coli O157 infections should not be treated with antibiotics, as this might lead to serious complications.”

Kids and Ecoli from Petting Zoos

Several children have contracted Ecoli from petting zoos, state fairs, animal attractions, or other places where they come into contact with animals through the years, and a few have died. This has led to laws and precautions put in place regarding animal exhibits. One such law, in North Carolina, is called Aedin’s Law after a young girl who got sick with E. coli in 2004 in an outbreak that affected over 100 others, requires petting zoo operators to have a special license to run the zoo, and also to post signs on the dangers of interacting with animals. Another provision of the law requires the a hand-washing station must be located within ten feet of the petting zoo. Despite this law, and similar laws in other states, a few people contract E coli from animal exhibits each year.

So, how do these germs get inside our body and cause the illness?

Most of the pathogens that cause infections like Salmonella, Ecoli and Campylobacter are present in the intestines of these animals. They shed it in their feces, which can then contaminate their surroundings and body of the animals. These bacteria spread to the hands of the people who touch these animals or their surroundings. And from the hands to their mouth – This is mainly how diarrheal illness spreads from animals to humans.

At the petting zoo, fecal contamination is present at various surfaces from gates, walls to pens and food containers of the animals. Keep in mind, that the contamination isn’t always visible to the naked eye or the animals who carry the pathogen in their intestine won’t always show any symptoms. Therefore, it is important to practice proper precautionary measures at all times.

Animals at least risk of transmission include:

  • Those who have good temperament
  • Adult animals (baby animals have the highest risk of transmission even though they might look like the cutest bunch out of all)
  • Animals that are healthy. This generally depends on the age and species of the animals.

Animals at most risk of transmission include:

  • Baby animals especially young lambs, baby goats and baby sheep
  • Wild animals who don’t have a good temperament or are not good at human interactions
  • Pregnant sheep or goat who are just about to give birth shouldn’t be kept at petting zoos.

How to prevent yourself and your kids from getting infected?

  • Wash hands: One of the easiest precautions that you should follow is washing hands with hot, soapy water after petting animals. This should especially be taken care of when you are taking your kids to the zoo. Make sure that they wash their hands immediately after petting the animals. Do not take your hands in your mouth before washing them. Carry antibacterial gel sanitizers with you in case hand washing facilities aren’t readily available.
  • Keep hands out of your mouth – Parents should accompany their child at all times, especially because they are at higher risk of developing infections. They should be instructed to not touch their face and take their hands in their mouths after petting animals. If your kid is a nail-biter or thumb sucker, extra precaution should be taken.
  • Make sure that you eat and drink before going to the petting area. You shouldn’t have anything while at the petting zoo except in the cafeteria.
  • Children shouldn’t be allowed to wander inside the pens of animals.
  • Bring a change of clothes for your child. A child’s clothes can get contaminated when they are leaning on the railing or get a little too close with the animals. Make sure that you change their as soon as you leave the zoo.
  • No matter how small your child is, brief them a little about the safety tips like washing their hands, not put their hands in the mouth and avoid contact with manure. If not all, they will at least follow a few of your tips.
  • Enquire about petting zoo hygiene. Ask questions about the safety of pens, how often they are cleaned and if they know about the consequences of not maintaining proper safety at the zoo.
  • Look out for the symptoms. Some of the early signs of Ecoli, Salmonella etc. is diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal cramps. As soon as you notice the symptoms, consult a doctor immediately. Early diagnosis often prevents serious complications.

The Lange Law Firm

Our mission is to help families who have been harmed by petting zoos, state fairs, and farms.  When corporations cause food poisoning or Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks or when petting zoos cause outbreaks, we use the law to hold them accountable.  The Lange Law Firm is the only law firm in the nation solely focused on representing families in food poisoning lawsuits and Legionnaires disease lawsuits.

If you or your child was infected with Ecoli in this Ecoli outbreak after attending the Minnesota State Fair and are interested in making a legal claim for compensation, we have an Ecoli lawyer ready to help you.  Call us for a free no obligation legal consultation at (833) 330-3663 or send us an e-mail here.

By: Candess Zona-Mendola, Editor (Non-Lawyer)