WRAL.com at the State Fair

State Fair hopes to prevent E. coli outbreak

Posted October 14, 2012
Updated October 15, 2012

— State Fair organizers hope visitors will wash their hands frequently and mostly avoid touching animals in order to prevent another E. coli outbreak like the one the Cleveland County Fair that has killed a child.

Six of the 21 people sickened in the outbreak at the Cleveland County Fair in Shelby remained hospitalized Sunday. Last year, 25 people contracted E. coli infections that could be linked to a livestock building at the State Fair.

"You get a lot of people together, there's the potential for germs to be exchanged. You throw animals into that mix, there's also the potential for germs to be transmitted," said  Brian Long, public affairs director for the state agriculture department.

E. coli bacteria are naturally found in the waste of animals, and people who touch contaminated material can transfer the bacteria to their mouths or to other people. Symptoms of E. coli can occur as long as 10 days after exposure and include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and a low-grade fever.

Since last year's outbreak, State Fair organizers have invested more than $200,000 in preventive measures.

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Hand-washing stations have better lighting and larger signs. Animal exhibits and food vendors are placed farther apart. Most noticeably, new routes and barriers in animal buildings limit contact between humans and animals.

"Some animals are here purely to be seen and not touched," Long said.

The petting zoo is still open for those who want to feed and touch the animals. "The first thing you should do when you
leave that exhibit is wash your hands," said Long.

fair Monday at the NC State Fair

Hand-washing and -sanitizing stations were first added outside the petting zoo after a 2004 outbreak sickened more than 100.

Kevin White said his family has not gotten sick in 12 years of visiting the livestock and animal exhibits at the fair.

"That's probably the main point of our adventure out," White said.


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  • change2012 Oct 16, 2012

    You know there is a saying that goes like this.."There is a simple solution to every problem." So with that being said, here it goes..Ding Ding Ding (Drumroll)....STOP BRINGING THE ANIMALS TO THE FAIR!!!

  • more cowbell Oct 15, 2012

    I hear the deep fried e-coli is to die for.

  • knockitoff Oct 15, 2012

    I've gotten eColi from bagged lettuce before - the kind they say you don't need to wash...bull pucky....still wash it!

  • anne53ozzy Oct 15, 2012

    sillywabit this is about the hygiene of the staff of the caterer

  • Taxpayingcitizen Oct 15, 2012

    "Why is it so important to people to allow their children to touch these animals? Maybe they should enclosed the animals behind glass like the zoo does to protect the people and the animals. charmcclainlovesdogs2"

    What a fun petting zoo that would make!

    Once they start taking these things away from the fair, they can count me out -

  • Patrick Henry Oct 15, 2012

    @sillywabbit...it's also that same group of people who want to complain about livestock and agriculture...and that want to blame someone else when something happens to them.

    Preach on, my brother!

  • sillywabbitthepatriot Oct 15, 2012

    I ate raw broccoli salad last September at a wedding reception while I was dressed up and clean as a whistle and even used the hand sanitizer provided by the caterer while standing in the buffet line. Guess what happend 2.5 hours later? I'll give you a hint; both ends. Funny thing is, there was no livestock at the reception. Pray tell!

  • Walkin Man Oct 15, 2012

    Why do we need a petting-zoo in the first place. I don't care how many washing stations you put up, people will forget to wash their hands. And that's not counting children (and probably some adults) who will pet an animal, touch their face and THEN wash their hands. In the interest of safety, just have a look-no-touch animal exhibit.

  • phoebelouise Oct 15, 2012

    if you remember people caught it last year and they did not even attend the fair but ate food brought to them from the fair. i have family in cleveland county and they have told me that people are getting sick that did not go near the animals. i have been working with livestock and all kinds of animals for over 40 years and have never gotten sick.

  • cocker_mom Oct 15, 2012

    sillywabbit - my thoughts precisely. I grew up on a horse farm and did everything that work entailed. We often grabbed an apple off the tree and ate it, or jumped in the truck after putting hay away or riding and simply didn't have access to apple cinnamon bath and body works anti-bac soap. and I was not ever sick. It's good to be born in the country and do the things that a sanitized society thinks is "dangerous". I do worry that all the overuse of antibacterial this and that and rampant use of antibiotics have made these specific strains quite powerful - then coupled with no exposure to anything "dirty" - you get a one / two punch.