July 21, 2018

E. coli Risk Prompts Stearns County Fair to Omit Petting Zoo

The risk of E.coli poisoning has prompted organizers of the Stearns County Fair in Minnesota to omit the petting zoo this year. Portable handwashing stations will be installed in all the barns to further reduce the risk of illness.

Petting Zoo“The overriding factor for not doing it this year was the health concerns,” John Roberts, the fair’s Future Farmers of America told the St. Cloud Times.  “The one thing we found over the years, no matter how many signs and stuff you put up there’s always going to be somebody that’s going to pet the animals and then they don’t wash their hands afterward.”

Petting zoos have been the source of three E. coli outbreaks at Minnesota county fairs since 1998 and at dozens of other fairs around the country. Last year, an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 at the Cleveland County Fair in North Carolina sickened more than 100 people. Seven of them developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) a complication of E.coli infections that causes kidney failure.  A toddler who developed HUS died.

Get E. coli-HUS help here “Despite the frequency and severity of these outbreaks, not enough is being done to prevent these severe injuries to children, who are particularly vulnerable to E. coli poisoning and the horrible condition that frequently develops from it, (HUS),” said Fred Pritzker, a food safety attorney who has filed suit on behalf of the toddler family.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that children under five not be allowed to handle live animals and that older children only be allowed to do so with adult supervision of animal contact and hand washing directly following. If you are attending a fair this summer,  look for functioning hand washing stations before attending an animal exhibit.  Alcohol-based hand sanitizer is not an effective substitute for hand washing.

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