Local News

Investigation continues into E. coli outbreak

Posted October 31, 2011

— State health officials said nine cases of E. coli have been confirmed and another 15 are being investigated in an outbreak that has been unofficially linked to the North Carolina State Fair.

The North Carolina Division of Public Health officials said the numbers were likely to fluctuate as the investigation into the outbreak continues and more information is gleaned from people during interviews. The outbreak seemed to be under control, officials said. 

All 24 sick people attended the recent North Carolina State Fair, which health officials said Friday is the "probable (source of) exposure for the outbreak."

State Epidemiologist Dr. Megan Davies said nearly all 24 people have been interviewed. Invitations were sent out to 2,000 fairgoers who did not get sick asking them to answer questions that might assist with the investigation. Trained interviewers will call those who agree to answer questions.  

Though the fair is believed to be the source of the outbreak, Davies said there is no exact cause identified yet. She said if the outbreak had been related to food or water contamination, there would have been more cases. 

Three young children remain in intensive care with kidney problems caused by the infection, and another child and an adult also have been hospitalized.

Wake County remains the center of the outbreak, with 11 of the 24 confirmed or suspected cases. Sampson County has seven cases, Wilson County has two cases, and Durham, Orange, Johnston and Cleveland counties have one case each.

E. coli outbreak Investigation continues into E. coli outbreak

Davies said seven of the cases investigated had a similar genetic fingerprint, which means they shared a similar exposure. She did not say where those cases were located. 

Sampson County Health Director Wanda Robinson said the seven cases from her county are from the same cluster of friends and family. They all went to the State Fair and the only common activity they reported was touching goats at the petting zoo. Robinson cautioned that more questioning and lab comparisons were needed to determine what caused the cases.

E. coli is a potentially lethal form of food poisoning caused by bacteria found in animal feces, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services. People can become ill after coming in contact with animal feces or infected food or water. It can also be spread from person to person.

State Fair spokesman Brian Long said his department is working closely with state health officials to determine the cause of the outbreak.

"Ultimately, it could come out that there is no smoking gun, so to speak," Long said. "That would be really frustrating to us because if we know the source, then we can determine whether or not it's something that can be fixed." 


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  • bigal02282 Nov 1, 2011

    This is our Republican "jobs" plan in action. First, after speaking with the CEO's of major corporations, agree to remove all regulations which might "impede" job creation. Then at the behest of those same CEO's, reduce corporate tax rates to help speed along "job creation" and "investment". Okay, not that we've removed the regulations and any hope of ever enforcing anything, we now need to just go away and let industry police itself, since they would never do anything to harm their cash flow... Now, about those jobs... Lets make folks sick! That will certainly stimulate the health care sector and the morticians.. we'll need caskets, ditch diggers, florists, home health care providers, and the list goes on.. gonna be putting LOTS of folks to work while we kill them all!

  • jellygirl Nov 1, 2011

    I work in a doctors office, it's common knowledge that before the fair we're slow and quiet and after all heck breaks loose! With that knowledge I always arm my family with hand sanitizer and hand wipes when we go to the fair. It's a rule that no matter how many times we eat, even if it's just one booth over from the last, we have to use it! we also avoid the petting zoo. I'm thinking after this happening again that the petting zoo may have seen it's last apperance at the fair.

  • Krimson Nov 1, 2011

    Reminder: never shake hands with godnessgracious2...

  • pbjbeach Oct 31, 2011

    Thing of this nature definetly could be avoided if the state hadnt strip out an fired or laid off the biggest majority of the state the state public worker such as food inspectors an highway inspectors in favor of supposely allowing industry's to self regulate themselves with pirvatized inspectors in nearly every state agency across this state . so how is the self reegulations working out of the states own state taxpayers prortection with the issues of safty am health concerns an in ddecting of fraud waste an abuse of the taxpayers funding these private contracting deals arent working an the state taxpayers are being forced to tax a fincinal bath with the wasting of taxpayers dollars an not getting the products an service that the taxpayers are paying a huge price for in the first place. thank you

  • americaneel Oct 31, 2011

    I read that it may have been from eating the fried goat pellets

  • annbyrd1 Oct 31, 2011

    @redrubberball1: The E.coli making people sick is NOT the strain of E.coli we carry in our intestines. It is the strain found in animals. Looking more like the petting zoo is the source. So sorry for all those infected.

  • godnessgracious2 Oct 31, 2011

    You don't really need to wash your hands. I never really do and I'm pretty much immune to everything by now.

  • mcorson2 Oct 31, 2011

    Well said Wildcat!!! couldn't agree more., its amazing to see people in area Bathrooms and not wash there hands after business, it's GROSS...............

  • Rebelyell55 Oct 31, 2011

    It was them there turkey vultures they were serving at turkey....

  • wildcat Oct 31, 2011

    This would not happen if human beings would take the time to wash their hands for 20 seconds with warm soapy warm including the nails and wrist.