E. Coli Outbreaks Traced To Petting Zoos

Three outbreaks occurred in 2004 and 2005 in young children who visited petting zoos

THURSDAY, Dec. 29 (HealthDay News) -- Three outbreaks of Escherichia coli O157:H7 infection occurred in the United States in 2004 and 2005 that were linked to petting zoos, according to a report in the Dec. 23 issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

In one outbreak, 108 cases of diarrheal illness were reported to the North Carolina Division of Public Health in October 2004. The median age of those affected was 5 years, and 15 patients developed hemolytic uremic syndrome. Illness was traced to attendance at the North Carolina State Fair. Environmental sampling of the fairgrounds yielded extensive E. coli O157:H7 contamination at the site of one of the two petting zoos.

In March 2005, Florida health officials identified 63 cases of E. coli O157:H7 infections associated with attendance at petting zoos at Florida Fairs and Festivals. There were seven cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome, and the infections were linked to one common animal vendor.

In July 2005, Arizona public health officials received reports of two children with E. coli O157:H7 infection, both of whom had visited a petting zoo. Fecal specimens from 60% of the petting zoo animals yielded E. coli O157:H7.

"These recent petting zoo--associated E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks highlight the need to strengthen control measures for such exhibits to reduce disease transmission and prevent similar outbreaks," according to the CDC. "To reduce human exposure to manure, revised control measures should be considered, particularly those restricting young children from directly entering open-interaction areas of petting zoos."

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