Maine Health officials have enlisted the help of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in determining the source of a September E. coli outbreak at the Oxford County Fair that sickened two small boys, killing one of them. Both toddlers developed E. coli O111 infections after attending the fair, their parents believe the petting zoo was the source of contamination.
The boys were both sickened by the same strain of E. coli O111, meaning their infections came from the same source. State health officials performed a number of tests on samples taken form the fair but were unable to establish a link. As a federal agency, the CDC has better technology and will be able to conduct more thorough testing, a health official told a local publication.
Little Colton Guay, who was 20 months old when he attended the fair, died from hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) a complication that occurs in about 15 percent of E. coli infections. HUS, which causes blood cells to become misshapen, causes kidney failure, seizure, stroke, coma and death.
It is not clear how long it will take the CDC to get results of tests. Nor has it been made public which specific samples they are testing.
E. coli outbreaks linked to fairs or petting zoos are reported each summer. Recent examples include an E. coli outbreak in North Dakota that sickened five children who attended the Red River Valley Fair in July. In May, an E. coli outbreak at the Milk Makers Fest at the Northwest Fairgrounds in Whatcom County, Washington sickened at least 36 children. And a 2014 E. coli O157:H7 outbreak linked to Zerebko Zoo Tran, a traveling petting zoo sickened at least 13 people.