MN State Fair E. coli outbreak – 6 hospitalized, with one suffering from E. coli Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS)
Visiting the state fair serves as a great way to spend time and share infectious laughs with family and friends each year, but for a handful of Minnesota residents, visiting the fair may have resulted in an infectious outbreak of E. coli, not laughs. This is the basis of an investigation currently being undertaken by the Minnesota Department of Health: whether or not a visit to the Minnesota State Fair was the cause of 11 separate cases of E. coli infection. According to KARE 11, a Minnesota news station reporting on the investigation, the 11 infected Minnesota residents visited the fair on dates ranging from August 25 through September 2, then reported sickness “between August 29 and September 6.” On the affected visitors, KARE 11 reports:
“Those infected range in age from 2 to 43 years of age. Six patients have been hospitalized, and one developed a potentially fatal complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome. One person remains hospitalized.”
It is believed that the harmful bacteria was spread through contact with livestock, and specifically through a “Miracle of Life” exhibit showcasing young cattle, sheep, and pigs. Physical contact with the animals themselves or with surrounding bars and fencing is thought to have been the basis for infection. The Minnesota Department of Health says “this should be a reminder to always wash your hands after being around livestock and their enclosures.”
State Public Veterinarian Joni Schefte explains in the KARE 11 report that the specific E. coli strain in question, O157, cannot just be treated with antibiotics, and that health care professionals should be contacted if someone has reason to believe they may be affected. O157 harms mostly the digestive system, and causes symptoms like “stomach cramping, diarrhea, bloody stools, low-grade fevers”, etc. If treated properly, folks can recover in 2 to 10 days after infection, but good personal hygiene and hand washing is essential, especially for families with infant children, as the bacterial infection can still be spread through stool for “weeks, and sometimes even months after symptoms resolve.” Very young and more elderly groups are more likely to be seriously affected by infections due to their relatively weaker immune systems.
According to National E. coli Lawyer Ron Simon, who has been the lead attorney on many of the most egregious petting zoo, State Fair, and day care facility E> coli outbreaks in the nation, “these outbreaks are preventable, and these sorts of illnesses are evidence that something in the system broke down. Through our lawsuits, we will try and identify what went wrong and how further outbreaks can be prevented.”