June 4, 2023

At Least Ten E. coli Cases Linked to Willow Grove Gardens Petting Zoo in Washington

At least ten E. coli infections have been linked to the Willow Grove Gardens Pumpkin Patch petting zoo in Washington state according to the Oregonian. Most of those sickened are children. The Cowlitz County Department of Health has been investigating this outbreak but has not updated their information.

E.coli Bacteria on TissueThe petting zoo closed down earlier this month when the outbreak was announced. Unfortunately, petting zoos are often the source of E. coli and other bacterial outbreaks. The petting zoo at the Cleveland County Fair in North Carolina was the source of an E. coli outbreak this fall that sickened more than 100 people and killed one child. Animals, even those that appear healthy, can be carriers of E. coli and other pathogenic bacteria. Petting the animals easily transfers the bacteria to hands. Infection results when people touch their eyes, nose, or mouth without sanitizing their hands.

While Willow Grove Gardens did have hand sanitizers installed at the zoo, there were no sinks with hand washing equipment. It is impossible to completely eliminate the risks of bacterial contamination with animal exhibits.

The symptoms of an E. coli infection include severe abdominal cramps, watery and possibly bloody diarrhea, mild fever, nausea, and vomiting. This infection can lead to hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a complication that can cause kidney failure and death. Anyone with an E. coli infection should receive prompt medical attention.

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