Local News

State Health Officials Determine Cause Of E. coli Outbreak

Posted December 16, 2004 3:55 a.m. EST
Updated August 2, 2011 11:23 a.m. EDT

— Investigators with the state Division of Public Health have determined the source of the majority of E.coli cases during this year's State Fair.

Through extensive environmental testing and genetic fingerprinting, the investigators have linked many of the cases to the Crossroads Farm Petting Zoo in Chatham County.

E. coli bacteria lives inside of animals and can be passed to humans by eating contaminated meat or through contact with manure, animals or contaminated surfaces.

Officials found 108 likely E. coli cases of people who had attended the fair and had symptoms of E. coli, which included diarrhea. Forty-three of those cases were confirmed by lab tests. Thirty-three of those cases had identical genetic fingerprints, and those fingerprints matched positive E.coli samples from the Crossroads Farm Petting Zoo site.

State health officials said most of the infected children had direct contact with manure.

The E. coli outbreak ended about a month ago, but Debbie Crane, of the North Carolina Department of Health, said some of the infected children are still on dialysis or under a doctor's care.

Based on the findings, the state Division of Public Health has made three broad suggestions for reducing E. coli infections at petting zoos: restricting direct contact with animals, reducing fecal contamination and reducing crowding of both people and animals in petting zoos.

Crane said the E. coli outbreak should not scare people away from the fair or even seeing the animals, but health officials want to stress the importance of washing your hands thoroughly after being around any animal.