July 25, 2024

Petting Zoo E.coli Can Be Aerosolized

E. coli at petting zoos and animal exhibits can be aerosolized, contaminating environmental surfaces in the barn or display area and possibly food and clothing of patrons viewing the animals, research shows. That’s why it’s especially important that no food or drink be brought into the viewing area and that hand washing stations with soap and running water be located at the exits.

Goats-Petting-Zoo-2The prohibition on food and drinks includes items brought from home such as water bottles, coffee mugs, baby bottles and sippy cups. It also includes other items that a baby or toddler may mouth, such as pacifiers and teething toys.

This week a traveling petting zoo in Minnesota was linked to 13 cases of E. coli infections at four county fairs and festivals held during July: the Nashwauk 4th of July Festival, July 3-5 , the Polk County Fair, July 9-13; the Rice County Fair, July 15-20;  and the Olmsted County Fair, July 21-27.

Lab tests have confirmed that the strain found in fecal samples taken from the petting zoo animals is a genetic match to the outbreak strain of E.coli O157:H7 found in all 13 patients.


Two people developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS),  a serious complication of E. coli infections in children and adolescents that can lead to kidney failure. In the U.S., HUS from E. coli infection is the most common cause of renal failure for children. About 30 percent of children who recover from HUS are left with permanent kidney damage. One patient from this outbreak remains hospitalized.

The symptoms of an E. coli infection include diarrhea that is usually bloody or watery, severe abdominal and stomach cramps that are very painful, and a mild fever. Most people do have to seek medical care when they get this infection because the symptoms are so severe. While most recover on their own, some people, especially young children, develop HUS from this illness.

The symptoms of HUS include little or no urine output, lethargy, a skin rash, pale skin, easy bruising, and bleeding from the nose or mouth. Anyone with these symptoms should be taken to a doctor immediately. HUS can be life-threatening and can cause seizures and strokes.

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