July 16, 2018

Lawyer Warns of E. coli Danger at Petting Zoos

Attorneys Fred Pritzker and Ryan Osterholm are warning about the dangers of E. coli infections from petting zoos. As the weather warms and summer starts, petting zoos are popular attractions for families with young children. Unfortunately, those venues can be and have been the source of serious and even deadly E. coli outbreaks.

Petting Zoos E. coli Outbreak

The issue is that ruminant animals often held at petting zoos, such as goats, sheep, and cows, can carry Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) bacteria in their guts. The animals don’t get sick from this pathogenic bacteria because they lack the gene that permits the bacteria to grow and produce toxins that destroy red blood cells.

The bacteria are shed in the animal’s feces. From there, they can get onto the animal’s coat, its bedding, and the environment, such as fences, gates, and rails. The bacteria can even aerosolize from dried feces and can then get onto visitor’s clothes and shoes, and even faces and hands.

When children put their hands into their mouths, or eat food after visiting the animals without washing their hands, they can easily ingest the pathogenic bacteria And it only takes 10 E. coli bacteria to make someone seriously sick.

Fred Pritzker

Food safety attorney Fred Pritzker said, “An E. col infection is a tragedy for a family. We can help if your child has been sickened after visiting a petting zoo.” Call him toll free at 1-888-377-8900 or 612-338-0202.

Noted attorney Fred Pritzker, who has represented many clients sickened at petting zoos, said, “These venues are problematic for fair owners and parents alike. Some fairs have ended petting zoos because of these serious and deadly outbreaks. States and the federal government have issued guidance and best practices checklists for fair organizers that should be followed to the letter.”

Attorney Ryan Osterholm added, “Hand washing stations should be available and stocked with clean water and soap. There should also be transition areas at entrances to a petting zoo area where parents can leave strollers and bags. Educational messages about the dangers of animal contact should be posted. And the animals, bedding, and surfaces should be kept clean.”

In the past five years, there have been multiple E. coli outbreaks linked to petting zoos and to animal exhibits at state and county fairs. At least forty-one people were sickened in Connecticut in 2016 in an outbreak linked to the Oak Leaf Dairy Farm in Lebanon. Thirty-four children were sickened in that outbreak and ten patients were hospitalized.

In Minnesota in 2014, the Zerebko Zoo Tran traveling petting zoo was linked to an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak. Fifteen people were sickened in that outbreak, including seven who were hospitalized. Two of the patients developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure, that is a complication of this infection.

In 2012, a huge E. coli outbreak sickened visitors to the at the Cleveland County Fair in North Carolina. One hundred six people were sickened; most of the patients were children. One child sadly died. Officials found that runoff causes contamination of the area around the petting zoo exhibit at the fair.

And in 2013, seven people were sickened with E. coli O157:H7 infections after visiting Dehn’s Pumpkins in Dayton, Minnesota. an investigation by the Minnesota Department of Health linked the illnesses to cows that were part of the animal attraction at that venue.

Fred Pritzker and his team won a $7.55 million verdict for one child who developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) in 2016 after a visit at Dehn’s Pumpkins. The child suffered severe kidney damage. And in 2017, attorneys Ryan Osterholm and Eric Hageman obtained a settlement for a child who contacted E. coli O157:H7y from animal contact at a petting zoo that was located in a county fair. The details of that settlement are confidential.

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