July 25, 2024

E. coli Outbreak: One Little Child Dies, Three Sickened at San Diego County Fair

One 2-year-old boy has died, and three other children from 2 to 13 years of age have been sickened with E. coli infections after they visited the San Diego County Fair, according to the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency.  The infections are apparently linked to contact with animals at that venue.

E. coli Outbreak: One Little Child Dies, Three Sickened at San Diego County Fair

Unfortunately, this is not the first time this has happened. Shiga toxin E. coli (STEC) outbreaks linked to county fairs and petting zoos have occurred several times in the past few years. An outbreak at the Oxford County Fair in Maine in 2015 sickened two small boys; one of them died. An E. coli outbreak at the Milk Makers Fest in Whatcom County, Washington in 2015 sickened 36 children with E. coli infections. And in 2014, an E. coli outbreak sickened 13 people in Minnesota after they visited exhibits at county fairs around the state held by Zerebko Zoo Tran.

The issue is that ruminant animals such as cows and goats can carry E. coli bacteria in their guts. The animals do not get sick, and do not look or act ill. But they shed that bacteria in their feces, which can then get into the animal’s environment and onto their hides. If a child pets the animal, then eats without washing their hands first, or just puts their fingers in their mouth, they can get very sick.

The county’s Epidemiology Program and County Department of Environmental Health is investigating this outbreak cluster. The children visited the fair from June 8 to June 15, 2019 and were ill from June 10 to June 19, 2019. The little boy died on June 24, 2019 from a complication of the infection.

All of the children had contact with animals, either by visiting the animals or the petting zoo at the county fair. San Diego County Fair officials have closed public access to all animals as a result of this outbreak. Officials have also re-inspected food facilities that the children visited and found no link to this outbreak.

Attorney Fred Pritzker

You can contact lawyer Fred Pritzker for help by calling 1-888-377-8900.

Food safety attorney Fred Pritzker, who has filed lawsuits on behalf of children sickened in these types of outbreaks, said, “These outbreaks are tragic, and unfortunately happen almost every summer. No child should get sick or die just because they visited a petting zoo. And most parents do not know about these issues with petting zoos and county fairs.”

The symptoms of an E. coli infection include severe and painful abdominal cramps, and diarrhea that is bloody and watery. Most patients do not develop a fever, but if they do it is mild. When the patient is under the age of 5, a complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) can develop, which is a type of kidney failure.



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