May 29, 2024

Seven Children Sick in Tennessee Fair E. coli Outbreak

There are seven children sick and hospitalized in the Tennessee fair E. coli outbreak, and four children remain hospitalized more than two weeks later, according to news reports. Elementary classes from Sullivan county and Washington county visited the fair.

Seven Children Sick in Tennessee Fair E. coli Outbreak

The children took part in a school event, when elementary school kids visited an animal exhibit at the Appalachian Fairgrounds on September 26 and September 27, 2023. The pathogen that sickened these children is Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC). The serovar was not named.

Dr. David Kirschke, Regional Medical Officer for the Northeast Regional Health Office issued a statement. It reads, “The Northeast Regional Health Office and the Sullivan County Health Department are investigating 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. So far, 7 children have been hospitalized and 4 are seriously ill with complications.”


Food Safety Attorney and Food Poisoning Bulletin Publisher Eric Hageman

The most serious compilation that can occur with a STEC infection is hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), that is a type of kidney failure. That complication is most common in young children.

Noted food safety attorney Eric Hageman, who has successfully represented many families in E. coli and HUS cases, especially related to animal exhibits at fairs, said, “It is tragic that so many children are seriously ill after a school trip. We hope that the children recover quickly and do not suffer lasting harm from this infection.”

E. coli is commonly found in the guts of ruminant animals, including cows and goats. These animals do not get sick and appear healthy. But they excrete the pathogen in their feces. And those feces can contaminate everything in the area where the animal lives, including fences, railings, and bedding, and it can get onto their coats. Then, when someone touches the animal or anything around it, then eats or touches their mouths without washing their hands, they can get sick. And that pathogen can aerosolize, which means it can float through the air, and can land on a child’s face.

The Children

According to the Times News, about 1,000 children were at the Fairgrounds. They went the Kingsport and Bristol schools and are in pre-kindergarten through the second grade. The exhibit included goats, ponies, cattle, and other farm animals.

Two of the children, 3-year-old Liam B. and River H., who is 15 months old, have hemolytic uremic syndrome and may need blood transfusions and dialysis. River’s brother Elijah has E. coli and was admitted to East Tennessee Children’s Hospital in Knoxville Thursday evening. River and Elijah’s older brother went to the fair and ate a lunch that was provided by the school. Liam’s older brother and sister visited the fair; the older brother was hospitalized with an E. coli infection but has recovered. (E. coli can be contracted through person-to-person contact.) That news outlet stated that there are a “number of children” who are confirmed ill by culture. Some adults may also be ill.

About E. coli and Fairs

Unfortunately, E. coli outbreaks linked to petting zoos and fairs are not uncommon. In 2013, an outbreak at Dehn’s Pumpkin Patch in Dayton, Minnesota sickened at least seven people. One child developed HUS.In 2017, an E. coli outbreak at the Mesa County Fair in Grand Junction, Colorado sickened at least eight people. In 2019, an outbreak at the San Diego County Fair sickened at least 10 people. And in 2020, an E. coli outbreak at the Minnesota State Fair sickened at least 11 people; one child developed HUS.

Fairs should provide signage at animal exhibits warning fairgoers of the risks of being around these animals, but that is not always the case. Eating should not be permitted in those exhibits. And they should provide handwashing stations with plentiful clean water and soap.

If your children visited the Appalachian Fairgrounds in Tennessee this year as part of a school trip, and has been sick with the symptoms of an E. coli infection or HUS, visit your doctor. They may be part of this Tennessee fair E. coli outbreak.

Attorneys at the Pritzker Hageman Food Safety Law Firm

If your child has been sickened with an E. coli infection or has developed HUS after visiting the Appalachian Fairgrounds in Tennessee, 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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