SAN DIEGO — A 2-year-old-boy died and three other children became ill as a result of E. coli linked to contact with animals at the San Diego County Fair, health officials said Friday.
Four cases of infections have been confirmed in children ranging from 2 to 13 years old, according to the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency.
The children visited the Del Mar Fairgrounds in California from June 8 to June 15 and reported symptoms from June 10 to June 16. Three of the four children were not hospitalized, according to health officials.
The 2-year-old boy died from Shiga-toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) June 24.
The source of the E. coli bacteria is under investigation. County inspectors said the illnesses had no link to any food facilities the children accessed.
All children visited the animal areas or the petting zoo, or had other animal contact at the fair, county health officials said. San Diego County Fair officials have closed public access to all animal areas, including the petting zoo, at the livestock barn on the eastern side of the Del Mar Fairgrounds.
Fair CEO Tim Fennell and deputy general manager Katie Mueller held a news conference late Friday night saying they were notified about the children’s illnesses Friday morning, and told Friday night the boy had died.
People who contract STEC infections feel sick within three to four days after exposure to the bacteria. However, the illness can start within one to 10 days after exposure, according to county health officials. Symptoms of E. coli include severe abdominal cramping, watery or bloody diarrhea and vomiting. Symptoms may also occur with or without a fever. County health officials asked anyone who experienced the symptoms on or after June 8 to contact their healthcare provider.
From 2010 to 2015, about 100 outbreaks of illness in people linked to animals at petting zoos, fairs and educational farms were reported to health officials, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
People who do not wash their hands after petting an animal or bring food or drinks into an area with animals increase their chance of getting sick, CDC officials said.
The CDC has recommendations for keeping children safe around animals:
- Don't let children sit or play on the ground in animal areas
- Teach children not to put their fingers or objects near an animal's mouth
- Don't let children put their hands or fingers in their mouths when they're in an animal area