UPDATE: Sept. 20, 2019
One person has suffered E. coli hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) after being exposed to E. coli at the Minnesota State Fair. HUS is a serious condition that affects blood and blood vessels in a persons body. It can originate from an abnormal destruction of red blood cells from bacterial viruses, such as E. coli (escherichia coli).
What then happens is the damaged blood cells clog the filtration system that resides in the kidneys. HUS can cause proteinuria, dehydration, and kidney failure, in which dialysis may be required. It is not impossible for HUS to lead to kidney transplant.
(Sept. 17, 2019) Calves, piglets, and sheep; oh my! A popular animal exhibit at the Minnesota State Fair has been the cause of an E. coli outbreak that sickened both children and adults.
At least 11 people, ages 2 to 43 have suffered from the illness, known as E. coli O157. At least six of them have been hospitalized from the dangerous outbreak. One person even suffered hemolytic uremic syndrome, which is a severe blood complication that can cause kidney failure.
The outbreak stems from the Miracle of Birth Center, a popular attraction full of baby animals and oftentimes live births. At least ten of the individuals who came down with E. coli had visited the birthing center at the fair, which operated from Aug. 25 to Sept. 2. The illness onset was reported to have occurred anywhere between Aug. 29 and Sept. 6.
Though not everyone was privy to pet the contained animals, fecal bacteria can easily move from animal to common areas such as railings, bleachers, and other surfaces.
Kirk Smith, an epidemiologist with the Minnesota Department of Health said, “There’s been all kinds of outbreaks where people touched a contaminated surface like a fence rail or the bleachers. These germs have a way of making their way around a building.”
The fair has ended and exposure rates have lowered, but additional reports may come in. Health officials warned doctors and healthcare workers to be on the lookout for such cases in order to document them into this outbreak. It serves as a reminder to always practice safe hygiene and wash your hands; especially after handling animals.
Those with the E. coli sickness can also pass it onto others, even after a full recovery. It was noted this is often how it’s spread throughout childcare facilities.
According to Smith, this particular strain of E. coli is “notorious” for causing severe illness. Minnesota roughly received 130 cases of O157 E. coli infections every year and many of such outbreaks occur at county fairs or agricultural events. In 2007, an entire evacuation of teenagers in a 4-H dormitory took place after an outbreak of H1N1 influenza, or swine flu.
At this point, state officials are hoping to prevent the animals that had been on display from being a part of any other public exhibits.
This particular strain of E. coli can be transmitted via an oral-fecal route, especially with families who have children in diapers. It may be present in stools for weeks, sometimes even months, even after symptoms have gone away.
According to Minnesota state public veterinarian Joni Schefte, O157 can’t just be treated with antibiotics.
Safety Measures to Prevent E. coli
Side effects of E. coli include stomach cramps, diarrhea with bloody stools, and sometimes a low-grade fever. The symptoms may present themselves after two to five days of exposure.
E. coli can be transmitted to humans from animal fecal matter. It’s important to wash your hands and avoid taking food into areas where livestock are present.
Some safe ways to protect yourself and your family are making sure food isn’t taken into an animal exhibit. E. coli can spread through the air after being in contact with sawdust or other particles. It’s at the greatest risk when those particles settle on common surface areas such as railings, seats, and even food.
It’s also important to make sure your shoes are cleaned after visiting an animal exhibit, as E. coli can be tracked on the soles of shoes into households or cars.
As the fall season of 2019 begins, places such as apple orchards and pumpkin patches where livestock are present, may be a hotbed of E. coli contamination as well.
Do you have an E. coli lawsuit?
If you suffered E. coli O157 after attending the Minnesota State Fair, you should contact the lawyers at Johnson // Becker. You may be able to file a lawsuit and hold the livestock owners accountable for your illness. We offer a Free Lawsuit Evaluation and would be honored to speak to you.