June 25, 2024

Petting Zoo E. coli Outbreaks in 2013

Petting zoos and other live animal exhibits can be the source of E.coli poisoning which can cause serious, sometimes life-ending illness for children. In 2013, at least two E.coli outbreaks were associated with petting zoos. Six children contracted E.coli infections, three of them developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a complication of E.coli infections in children that leads to kidney failure.

State Fair Petting ZooA September E. coli outbreak sickened three children in Kentucky and Indiana who had visited Huber’s Orchard, Winery and Vineyards in Starlight, IN prior to becoming ill. All three children were hospitalized and DNA “fingerprinting” tests showed they were all sickened by the same strain of E.coli. Tests on environmental samples from Huber’s did not yield positives of the outbreak strain.

In October, three children who visited Dehn’s Pumpkins in Dayton, MN got E. coli poisoning. They ranged in age from 15 months to 7 years old.

“Petting zoos are a well-recognized source of E. coli poisoning and have been implicated in several outbreaks in recent years,” said Fred Pritzker, publisher of Food Poisoning Bulletin and food safety attorney who has represented families who children have been sickened and died from E.coli complications after visiting petting zoos. “Not enough is being done to prevent these severe injuries to children.”

After attending the petting zoo at the the 2012 Cleveland County Fair in North Carolina, 106 people became ill, most of them were children, one of whom died. In 2013, organizers of that fair and others, such as the Stearns County Fair in Minnesota, decided against having a petting zoo because the risk involved is so great.

Recent E.coli outbreaks at petting zoos or animal exhibits include: a 2011 outbreak at the North Carolina State Fair in Raleigh that sickened 25 people, four of whom developed hemolytic uremic syndrome. A 2004 outbreak, also linked to the North Carolina State Fair petting zoo, that sickened 187 people 15 of whom developed HUS. The 2011 Fond du Lac County Fair in Wisconsin where an 18-month old was hospitalized with an E. coli infection after attending the fair.

An outbreak at the 2011 Hendricks County Fair in Indiana where a five-year-old girl died of an E. coli infection after attending the fair. The 2010 Northwestern Michigan Fair where three children who attended the fair contracted E. coli poisoning . And the 2010 Rush County Fair in Indiana where a four-year-old girl was hospitalized with HUS after attending the fair.




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