Officials Investigate Petting Zoo at County Fair After 2 Children Sickened With E. Coli

Courtesy Lucy Guay via ABC News


(ABC)– A petting zoo and animal barns at a Maine county fair are being investigated after two children who visited the fair were infected with E. coli, health officials said.

The Maine branch of the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention has launched a probe into the cases and is currently focusing on the children’s visits to the petting zoo and animal barns at the Oxford County Fair, officials said.

“Maine CDC is working with the State Veterinarian and the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry to investigate the fact that each child attended the Oxford Fair and visited the animal barns and petting zoo,” a CDC spokesman said in a statement.

“Shiga toxins,” which are associated with E. coli, were found in laboratory tests earlier this week, health officials said.

The Oxford County Fair did not immediately respond to calls from ABC News seeking comment. The fair ran from Sept. 16 to 19.

One of those infected was identified by his family as 20-month-old Colton Guay, according to ABC’s Portland affiliate WMTW-TV. A week after visiting the fair, the toddler developed symptoms of E. coli infection, including severe diarrhea, before he was hospitalized, his father told WMTW-TV, noting that Colton later died from a complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).

“To the best of our knowledge, he never touched an animal but he was in the petting zoo,” Colton’s grandmother, Lucy Guay, told ABC News today, adding that Colton was admitted to the hospital on Sept. 29 and died on Monday.

The boy’s parents are devastated, she said. “He had a smile that would win everyone over. He was daddy’s little buddy and mama’s little man,” she said.

The CDC has not disclosed the condition of the other infected child.

HUS is most likely to affect young children with E. coli and occurs when red blood cells are destroyed and start to clog the kidneys. Younger children can be especially susceptible to E. coli infections, since their immune systems are not fully developed.

E. coli bacteria is naturally occurring and often live in the intestines of both people and animals. If people are exposed to a strain of E. coli bacteria that is infectious, they can become ill. The bacteria is often spread through contaminated food or water or contact with animals or infected people.

“As the agricultural fair season winds down, it’s important that those who are exposed to animals and their environment wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water,” a CDC spokesman said in a statement. “This offers the best protection against E. coli.”

State veterinarian Dr. Michele Walsh told WMTW-TV that her office was working with Oxford County Fair officials and that inspectors are looking to sample animals for signs of the bacteria.

“It’s a challenge to get a smoking gun,” Walsh told WMTW-TV about testing animals.

WTNH NEWS8 provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review. Also, you can now block any inappropriate user by simple selecting the drop down menu on the right of any comment and selection "Block User" from there.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s