June 21, 2024

Children Sick With E. coli After Fair Visit in 2 Tennessee Counties

There are elementary school children sick with E. coli infections in two Tennessee counties after they visited a local fair and had contact with animals in an exhibit there, according to news reports. The Northeast Regional Health Office is investigating this outbreak, which includes children from Sullivan and Washington counties. We do not know how many children are sick, if any have been hospitalized, or if any have developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which is a type of kidney failure.

Children Sick With E. coli After Fair Visit in 2 Tennessee Counties

That Office’s Regional Medial Officer, Dr. David Kirschke, said in a statement, “The Northeast Regional Health Office and the Sullivan County Health Department are investigating several cases of illness caused by Shiga-toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) among elementary school children in Washington and Sullivan counties. These illnesses occurred after some classes visited an animal exhibit at the fairgrounds on September 26 and 27. We are actively working to identify the source of these infections, including performing environmental testing at the site. The exhibit ended on September 27. Information on staying healthy while visiting animal exhibits is available on the CDC website.”

The school trips were on September 26 and September 27, 2023. Public health officials are performing environmental testing at the fairgrounds, which can include testing animals, food outlets, and the environment to try to discover the source of the outbreak.


Food Safety Attorney and Food Poisoning Bulletin Publisher Eric Hageman

Noted food safety lawyer Eric Hageman, who has successfully represented clients and families in E. coli lawsuits at farms, fairs, and petting zoos, said, “No child should ever get sick just because they went to the fair and petted some animals. Those venues should providing signage warning of the risks of contact with these animals, and enough handwashing stations to make these exhibits safer.”

Animal exhibits at fairgrounds and agricultural tourism spots have often been the source of potentially deadly E. coli outbreaks. In 2021, five children were sickened with E. coli infections after attending the Georgia National Fair. In 2019, 11 children were sickened with E. coli O157:H7 infections after visiting the Minnesota State Fair. One child developed hemolytic uremic syndrome. Also in 2019, an E. coli outbreak at the San Diego County Fair sickened 10 people; one two-year-old child died.

The issue is that ruminant animals, which includes goats and cows, can carry pathogenic E. coli bacteria in their intestines, but that bacteria does not make them sick. The animals excrete the pathogen in their feces, which can then contaminate their coats, milk, and anything in their environment.

Shiga toxins are produced by some strains of E. coli bacteria. They can travel through the bloodstream, destroying red blood cells. Those destroyed cells then go to the kidneys, where they can block small tubes called glomeruli, causing damage and kidney failure.

Symptoms of an E. coli infection include a mild fever, possible nausea and vomiting, and severe and painful abdominal cramps along with bloody diarrhea. Symptoms of HUS include little or no urine output, easy bruising, lethargy, pale skin, and bleeding from the  nose or mouth.

If your child attended the fair in question in Tennessee and has been ill with those symptoms, see your doctor as soon as possible. They could be one of the children sick with E. coli infections.

Attorneys at the Pritzker Hageman Food Safety Law Firm

If you have been sickened with a food poisoning infection, please contact our experienced attorneys for help with a possible lawsuit at 1-888-377-8900 or text us at 612-261-0856. Our firm represents clients in lawsuits against grocery stores, restaurants,fairs, petting zoos, and food processors.

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