The E. coli outbreak linked to the Cleveland County Fair in North Carolina has grown to include 61 people. Eleven people have been hospitalized, and one child, a 2-year-old toddler, has died. The Division of Public Health of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services in collaboration with Local Health Departments is investigating the outbreak. The state is reporting updates on the outbreak every day.
Attorney Ryan Osterholm said that this outbreak is a reminder that E. coli infections are very serious and can cause lifetime problems, including kidney failure if hemolytic uremic syndrome, or HUS, develops. Osterholm, who has won lawsuits for clients in cases like these, also said, “an E. coli infection, even a mild one, can cause hypertension, kidney problems, heart disease, and stroke. It’s crucial that anyone who attended this fair and is experiencing symptoms of an E. coli infection see their doctor immediately.”
The case count by county is: Cleveland County (33), Gaston County (11, with 1 death), Lincoln County (10), Catawba County (1), Mecklenburg (1), Union County (2), York County, South Carolina (2), Cherokee County, South Carolina (1). The symptoms of an E. coli infection can take as long as 10 days to appear. Symptoms include diarrhea which may be bloody, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, and low grade fever.
The petting zoo at the fair is under investigation as a possible source of the illness. Since E. coli spreads from animals and fecal matter to humans, petting zoos have been the source of outbreaks in the past. There were nine hand-washing stations in place at the fair, more than the five that are required by state law.