Health officials investigate E. coli outbreak link to Red River Valley Fair animals
BISMARCK--Three children sickened in a recent E. coli outbreak in eastern North Dakota reported attending the Red River Valley Fair earlier this month, prompting state health officials to investigate whether animals there were the source of the i...
BISMARCK--Three children sickened in a recent E. coli outbreak in eastern North Dakota reported attending the Red River Valley Fair earlier this month, prompting state health officials to investigate whether animals there were the source of the infection.
Officials said Monday it's still early in the investigation, but they're asking anyone who attended the fair, which ran from July 7 to 13, and developed diarrhea or bloody diarrhea for more than 24 hours within 10 days of the fair, to contact them.
The shiga toxin-producing infection from Escherischia coli, or STEC infection, can cause nausea, cramping, diarrhea, vomiting and bloody diarrhea, symptoms that can be severe enough to require hospitalization.
One of the children has developed a complication from the infection which can affect red blood cells and cause kidney damage and kidney failure, said Michelle Feist, a state epidemiologist with the Division of Disease Control.
"Although the cases reported having contact with animals at the fair, we are looking into other possible exposures as well," said Feist.
E. coli is shed in the fecal matter of infected animals and people. Undercooked meats, contaminated sprouts and petting zoos have all been implicated in past E. coli outbreaks in the U.S.
Red River Valley Fair General Manager Bryan Schulz expressed shock at the announcement, saying he'd heard no details from health officials other than a call early Monday inquiring from where the fair's animals had come.
"We haven't had a petting zoo for three years," Schulz said. "I'm not sure where they're getting this from."
Schulz said while fair officials have been moving away from having petting zoos precisely because of concerns over E.coli, people at the fair could have reached through cage bars in the rabbit display area or petted baby pigs held by workers in the Ag Education Center.
All animals in the Ag Education Center came from North Dakota State University, he said, while other animals on display came there from private owners.
The fair has a protocol of spraying down its barns after any horse or cattle shows and does not allow food vendors near the animal areas, Schulz said.
"I don't know where these individuals could have gotten it," said Schulz.