SAN DIEGO COUNTY, CA — A 2-year-old boy has died after becoming infected with E.Coli that health officials have linked to contact with animals, including at the petting zoo at the San Diego County Fair.
According to County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency, children between the ages of 2-13 became infected after visiting the fair. The agency said that three children who became infected did not have to be hospitalized.
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However, the 2-year-old boy died from a complication related to the disease on June 24.
The cluster of infections is under investigation.
“The source of the E.Coli bacteria is under investigation, but all children had a report of visiting the animal areas or the petting zoo, or had other animal contact at the San Diego Fair,” officials said in a news release.
Public access to all animals at the fair has been shut down.
“Our sympathies go out to the family of the child that died from this illness,” Wilma J. Wooten, the county public health officer, said in a statement. “While most people recover from this illness without complications, 5 to 10 percent of people diagnosed with STEC develop the life-threatening kidney infection.”
Food facilities that the infected children visited were tested and authorities found no link to the E.Coli cases.
In a statement posted to the fair’s website, officials wrote that activities involving direct animal interaction have been suspended in the interest of public safety.
“All guests are encouraged to wash their hands after any contact with animals or their living area, as well as prior to eating or drinking,” the statement said.
Held at the Del Mar fairgrounds, the fair opened May 31 and runs through July 4. A number of activities that include animals are listed on the fair’s website, including a goat playground and an attraction that lets guests see and touch wildlife seen on a farm.
San Diego County health officials said that sost people with an E.Coli infection start feeling sick three to four days after eating or drinking something that contains the bacteria. However, illnesses can start anywhere from one to 10 days after exposure.
While symptoms can vary from person to person, they include:
Severe abdominal cramps
Watery or bloody diarrhea (3 or more loose stools in a 24 hour period)
Symptoms can occur with or without a fever, officials said. Most people get better within five to seven days and while some infections are mild, others can be severe or life-threatening.
Officials are asking the public to contact their health care provider if anyone experienced these symptoms on or after June 8. Officials especially want the public to contact their provider if they are experiencing serious symptoms like diarrhea that lasts for more than three days, diarrhea accompanied by a fever higher than 102 degrees, blood in the stool, vomiting that is making it hard to keep liquids down and passing very little urine.
The most important step that can be taken to prevent the infection is washing hands thoroughly, officials said.
“Everyone, especially young children, older individuals, and people with weakened immune systems, should wash their hands before eating or drinking,” officials said.