June 3, 2023

Rice County Fair E. coli Cases Dominate Petting Zoo Outbreak

The Rice County Fair in Faribault, Minnesota, is where five people contracted E. coli poisoning in an outbreak that infectious disease experts from the Minnesota Department of Health have traced to a traveling petting zoo. The Rice County cluster of  E. coli O157:H7 illnesses expanded to a total of seven case patients — more than half of the outbreak total — when the pathogen spread from an infected person or persons to two secondary case patients.

Petting ZooInfection with E. coli O157:H7 is the primary cause of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), the most common cause of kidney failure in children in this country. This syndrome usually involves prolonged hospital stays and is fatal in up to 5 percent of cases. In the Minnesota E. coli outbreak linked to Zerebko Zoo Tran traveling petting zoo, health officials have confirmed seven hospitalizations, including two people fighting kidney failure and HUS, which can cause paralysis or other neurological impairments.

Rice County’s public website includes concerns about the potential for the enhanced transmission of E. coli O157:H7. This bacteria is passed in stool and is readily transmitted among children when contaminated hands or toys are placed in the mouth or contaminated food or water are consumed.

Wading pools, too, can easily become contaminated with stool and become sources of secondary transmission of the pathogen, according to the fact sheet.

The E. coli investigation of Zerebko Zoo Tran found case patients who attended the petting zoo at Nashwauk’s 4th of July Festival, the Polk County Fair, the Olmsted County Fair in Rochester and the Rice County Fair. Zerebko Zoo Tran is a licensed and insured business based in Bovey, Minnesota, and the owners agreed to withhold their animals from the last two county fairs at which they were scheduled to exhibit in August. The outbreak was detected among people who visited the petting zoo in July. The Rice County Fair was from July 15-20, 2014.

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