An E. coli outbreak at the Red River Valley Fair in West Fargo is being investigated by the North Dakota Department of Health. Three children, all under the age of 18, are sick with this bacteria. The fair was held July 7 through July 12, 2015.
One of the children has been diagnosed with hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a serious complication of a shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) infection. With HUS, red blood cells are damaged by shiga toxins. Those faulty cells then travel to the kidneys and cause damage that can lead to kidney failure.
Michelle Feist, an epidemiologist with the Division of Disease Control said in a statement, “we are in the early stages of this investigation and are asking people who become sick with diarrhea or bloody diarrhea for more than 24 hours, within ten days of attending the fair, to let us know. Although the cases reported having contact with animals while at the fair, we are looking into other possible exposures as well.” If you or your child are ill, please call the North Dakota Department of Health at 800-472-2180.
Last year, an E. coli outbreak in Minnesota was linked to the Zerebko traveling petting zoo. Animals from that fair shed E. coli, which sickened visitors at the Nashwauk’s 4th of July Festival, the Polk County Fair, the Olmsted County Fair in Rochester, and the Rice County Fair. This fair did not have a petting zoo, but visitors could reach through bars to touch or pet animals at the fair.
STEC bacteria are shed in the stools of infected animals and in people. Animals can be infected, but not show symptoms. The bacteria is also found in raw meat. Some E. coli outbreaks have been linked to produce that was contaminated either in the field or during transport.
The symptoms of an E. coli infection include diarrhea, which is often bloody and/or watery, painful cramps, fever, and nausea. The symptoms of HUS include lethargy, little or no urine output, easy bruising, skin rash, jaundice, and seizures.
If your child attended this fair and has experienced these symptoms, see your doctor as soon as possible. E. coli infections can be made worse by treatment with antibiotics. It’s important to get early and correct treatment for this illness.