The News-Observer’s recent story on Matthew Baldwin said he was popular among the baby goats and sheep in the petting zoo at the N.C. State Fair.
As the critters nudged and licked his hands, the 3-year-old Lee County boy squealed for more pellets. He’d have been happy to spend the whole day feeding the animals, forgoing the rides and fried goodies and midway games.
But a 45-minute visit to the petting zoo on an October Sunday may have been all the exposure Matthew needed to pick up the E. coli bacterium, turning the Baldwins’ happy afternoon celebrating the state’s agricultural heritage into a monthlong medical horror.
A few days after the fair excursion, Matthew doubled over with stomach cramps and bloody diarrhea. He was the first of more than 100 people who apparently got sick from E. coli last month in the days after the State Fair, giving rise to a mystery that has yet to be solved.
From the article:
William D. Marler, a personal injury lawyer in Seattle who specializes in contamination cases, said petting zoos are increasingly being identified as sources of E. coli outbreaks. He said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has published suggestions to cut exposure, such as providing hand-washing stations with running water and soap — an amenity that wasn’t offered at the State Fair’s petting zoos.
Exhibits that fail to take such measures, Marler said, may carry some legal liability, and four North Carolina families have contacted him.
“I don’t think we, as the public and people in positions of authority, have taken this seriously,” Marler said. “Maybe five years ago nobody really knew about this, and it was novel. But it’s far more than novel at this point. There are dozens of outbreaks that have occurred in petting zoos and fairs.