The Florida petting zoo E. coli outbreaks brings back memories for Andrea Bourget. Although she has no proof and no other infections were reported locally, Bourget suspects that her son, Matthew, who was 15 months old at the time, had contracted the bacteria from a local petting zoo. Matthew spent six weeks in the hospital, and luckily did not develop hemolytic uremic syndrome, which comes from exposure to E. coli O157:H7.
Kelly Docherty’s daughter Averey suffered from HUS in 2001 from exposure to red meat rather than a petting zoo. The experience for me was absolutely life altering, Docherty says. During Averey’s nearly five-week hospital stay she experienced renal failure, dialysis, blood transfusions, her bowels shutting down, and a fungal infection in her kidneys. She also required painful bloodwork for weeks after her release.
Although Averey, now 5, has a good bill of health, she still suffers from bowel problems and must be closely monitored during periods of change in the kidneys — puberty, pregnancy and menopause.
Dr. Julian Midgley, who specializes in kidney disease at Calgary’s Alberta Children’s Hospital, says that in the 10 years he’s been at the hospital he’s seen an average of 10 cases of HUS in a year, with only one death. He cautions:
“Clearly, very small children who can’t stop putting things in their mouth shouldn’t be petting animals. Older children need to make sure they wash their hands and are careful for what they touch.”